Learning Together at Waterdown

Arrival time was 8:30 am and our time together involved two hours of initial set-up, orientation, connecting to personal learning and discussing a plan for how to implement the tool as a communication strategy in the school community.  So, what is the tool?  It’s Twitter, a micro-blogging tool.   It was time well spent with @mvisca@jasonrizza and @ddalexand with lots of problem-solving, discussion and fielding of questions about how and why Twitter is meaningful for connecting, learning and communicating with others.

Initially, it took time for my colleagues to imagine how to pull the tweets together in a meaningful way but once we explored the power of Tweetdeck I noticed how it became clearer for them.  The primary benefits of TweetDeck are its ability to show you everything you want to see at once, in an organized column format.  In addition, the sharing of how educational chat hashtags assist in aggregating tweets into columns with specific categories for learning and networking proved to be powerful for my colleagues. For example, four that I follow and contribute in are #hwdsb, #cpchat, #edtech and #edchat.

Michelle Visca, Principal at Waterdown DHS originally asked for support as she was interested in accessing twitter as a way of communicating with the school community.  So, today #WDHS was created and this is where all are encouraged to share updates, messages and information about Waterdown District High School.  See the first two tweets that Michelle Visca, Principal posted:

The administrative team has begun the journey of using micro-blogging as a tool for networking, communicating and growing in a 21st century way.  I look forward to supporting the next steps with the Waterdown DHS staff and students as they take the risk and explore this new adventure in communication, connecting and learning together.

Interested?  Here is a robust link to check out:  Twitter by Cybraryman. I welcome questions and comments.




Constructivist PD with Livescribe

It’s almost here and this is very exciting!  On June 2, 2011 in Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board, a learning fair entitled, Live Learning with Livescribe will take place.  The learning fair structure  and design is based on an open learning style. Participants will construct their own learning by choice in focused areas of inquiry by interacting with facilitators at learning centres.  To understand the design of this learning fair, take a few moments and play this pencast:

Opening learning is active, flexible, participatory, social and self-regulated.  Sounds very 21st century to me!  This is an exploration in professional development and building capacity in staff.  Will this create a model of learning with each other that should be sustained?  Stay tuned as I will be seeking input from all and share my reflections by writing more on this constructivist approach to professional development.

In addition, this learning fair will celebrate the teachers who were very committed to the Live with Livescribe TLLP this school year.  It is an honour for HWDSB to host and organize this learning fair that celebrates in the best way their hard work and year long commitment by sharing their expertise and building capacity in others. This interactive learning fair focuses on how the livescribe is a tool that facilitates student learning and engagement  in many different ways tailored to the needs of the students.  I conclude by saying out loud I have very good vibes!

What technology best supports the learning?

Way back in October 2010,  I began talking with my team about finding a way to track how we support the learning in HWDSB from a system, school, classroom and individual staff member standpoint.  How do we do this effectively so that we can begin to analyse patterns and trends from a pedagogical and technological standpoint.  Never losing sight that the priority areas in HWDSB are: critical literacy, higher order thinking skills, 21st Century fluencies, the TLCP Process, comprehensive literacy / literacy intervention strategies, differentiated instruction / tiered intervention / universal design and problem solving in math.  Keeping these priority areas in mind, the requests for support vary immensely, especially when it comes to leveraging technology to serve the learning of today.  Hence, the importance of keeping track of how we support the system and schools.  We need to do this  in a way that allows us to build data for understanding how best to build our services to support HWDSB in a sustainable way.

We wrestled with many initial ways.  We tried first class using the calendar function to aggregate data and exporting it to excel.  Yikes!  We discussed using a collaborative document and thought about it being not as accessible for others who are not on our team.  What about our team wiki?  Truth be told, we tried a few of these but none of them seemed to really allow us to be transparent, authentic and truly collaborative as we hope to eventually go public with our stories and data.

It is with great enthusiasm and pride that I share members of our 21st Century Fluencies Team launched our team blog entitled:  Supporting.theclassroo.ms.  Here is a screenshot of the header:

As you can see, we are each able to post our experiences with schools, classrooms, system and more! Even better, we can categorize by panel, cluster, school and tag our supports and this allows us to understand the data of who, when, where, why and how we are building capacity in HWDSB.

Here is a screenshot of our tag cloud.  Take a look at it before you read further.
Now, you tell me what this tells us?

The tag cloud allows us to see where we are spending most of our time and how we are building capacity with staff. Amazing!  Not only that but our blogposts facilitate authentic sharing within our team.  We can review each others posts, comment and learn from each other in a very ongoing and sustainable way. Even better, we have added an anthologize plugin that will allow us to build specific content into a book or report.  How powerful will it be to organize and collate specific posts for specific reasons.

So here’s the good news, it’s working and we are very excited.  The bad news is that it isn’t public yet.  It will be very soon.  We are working on polishing our voice and wanted to ensure that all our team members have had time to create posts and feel comfortable with the wordpress platform.  This is learning and coaching in action!

My learnings:

  • the tool / technology does really serve the learning and the pedagogy
  • you must really think about what it is you are trying to accomplish and/or learn before you determine how you are going to do it when it comes to technology and web 2.0
  • always think about how you can leverage the technology to improve efficiency and efficacy
  • spend time exploring the options with your team and be open to changing course when a better idea comes along

I thank my team!  They are creative, innovative, persistent and always thinking.  It really makes our working and learning environment fun, stimulating and models how it should be for our students!

Just like the kids!

It was exciting today to offer a group of colleagues a technology tool for exploration, experimentation and most importantly experiential learning for professional growth and a focused purpose.  In my observation, adults can be just like the kids!   Hand them a piece of technology and watch them play, ask questions and begin to learn.  For the most part, curiousity and inquisitiveness bubbles to the surface, especially when you have others nearby to share in your experience.

The rationale for giving the twenty participants on the HWDSB 21st Century Fluencies Advisory Committee an eReader is to bring a focus on our learning through the use of a piece of technology.  It’s about an intentional blend of learning with a device and as the chair of the committee, my hope is that we have engaged and intrigued members on many fronts.

The beginning of our learning road map will focus on these intial goals:

  • To engage  in dialogue around professional reading including face to face and web 2.0 methods
  • To provide an opportunity to experience reading through an eReader
  • To augment professional reading pertaining to the 21st-century fluencies and teaching and learning in the digital age
  • To increase awareness of reading materials available for loan from the HWDSB, the Hamilton Public Library, and for purchase from various locations
  • To discuss the experience of using eReaders for professional learning
  • To dialogue openly about our learning experience
  • To discuss the teaching and learning potential of the device as it relates to student and staff engagement and learning

Posted on our wiki, committee members were left with a list of six things to do in preparation for a hands-on learning session at the end of May.  At that time, we will also select our initial texts for shared reading and review guiding questions. It’s going to be interesting to see how each committee member internalizes the use of an eReader as a tool for individual as well as group learning.   More posts to come!  I welcome your advice, comments, resources and experiences.