Hi All,

The past several years have been a busy time for me.  This August I graduated from Boise State University with a Masters Educational Technology and Information Literacy.  As a result, over the next month I will be making updates to this website to reflect my new knowledge and experience.  

​Thank you for understanding. 
 

What a Conference

Over the course of the weekend I have had the great fortune to attend the GAFE Summit and Bootcamp held at Seoul Foreign School and led by the EdTech Team.  It was a great opportunity to further my learning and meet some great people.

Share

I am a big believer in sharing what I learn.  When I go to conferences I take notes using Evernote.  A great feature of this app is the ability to share your notes with other people.  Feel free to peruse them Summit Notes and Bootcamp.  

Fun and Good News

A workshop is always a great time to have some fun with people you may have lost touch with.  This conference was no different.  I ran into teachers that I met at other conferences last year and another former teacher that I knew from a school in Japan.  However, the best news occurred on Saturday morning as I was in a cab.  I have now been accepted to the BSU MET program to begin in January 2014.  I can't wait to start studying.  If you are interested I have pasted my entrance essay below.

Letter

 
The start of the new school year always brings a lot of change.  New staff come in, new policies and procedures are introduced, and for my a change in position.  This year I have taken on the role of IT Facilitator for the Elementary section of my school.  To say that I am thrilled would be a bit of an understatement.

I'm looking forward to working with the entire school community on integrating technology within the curriculum.  I have lots of ideas that I know need to be made into realistic goals.  So far everything has been going smoothly except for one thing:

User Agreements

Okay I understand their point.  To protect people and make sure companies are not liable for anything that may happen using their resources.  I'm lucky and a lot of us are lucky in that we read the acceptable user age and pass with flying colours (usually minimum age is 13 unless otherwise stated).  From my perspective as a classroom teacher and now an IT Facilitator the whole thing is horribly confusing.

One site will say it's not okay to have kids under the age of 13 sign up.  Another will not put on any restriction.  One site will allow student accounts if they are under the age of 13.  Another will not permit.  One resource I found actually has contradictory information being stated in their TOA and their forums (a staff member provided the contradiction in questions).

What does al this boil down to?  I blame COPA.  Yes I understand that the idea behind it is to protect children from harm (an idea I support).  However, it has made a lot of companies worried about the legal ramifications of having under 13's use their sites.  COPA is an American law and if the company operates out of there it is expected to follow which in turn has an impact on people outside America who would like to use their resource but can't.

Solution

The easiest solution would be to clarify the rules signing students up to use different online resources.  I am all up for having them have their own school GMail account within school starting at a young age.  Am I convinced that students need to have their own personal GMail account at a young age, not necessarily.  However, the law needs to make clear the difference between educational and personal use.  Companies also need to understand this and realize that if they want schools to use their products, then they are going to have to jump through some extra hoops.

A more radical solution would be to scrap COPA altogether and come up with a clearer simpler policy that could be used worldwide.  Currently there are so many different variations of the law worldwide that it is confusing for bother teachers and parents who move internationally.  For example I had a friend move from Asia to Europe and she was shocked by how restrictive it was.

In the meantime Med Kharbach has done some wonderful research into this issue and provides a great list of resources. 


Let me know your thoughts below.
 

Overall Impression

Starting Thursday January 24th and until Saturday January 26th teachers from around Asia gathered together to hear some of the most cutting edge researchers and teachers present on a variety of different topics all centered around ICT education.  It was an incredible opportunity to meet new people and catch up with some old friends who I hadn't seen or heard from in years.  Also the opportunity to listen to the ideas and research statistics that are just now starting to come out was fantastic.  Hopefully I will be able to stay in touch with many of the people that I met and will hopefully see them at other conferences in the future.

Overall the conference was incredibly well organized (bus and wifi connectivity issues aside).  As most people were in Hong Kong just for the conference and flying out shortly afterwards, the organizers provided attendees the opportunity to go on a Junk trip.  The boat ride was a bit choppy and I had wished we left a bit sooner as I would have liked to have seen the sun set instead only being able to catch a glimpse of the mountains in the dark.  However, the food was fantastic.  I think I lucked out as I was at a table with several vegetarians and one person who doesn't eat seafood.  Thus I was spoiled and ate more than my fare share.

On Saturday after the conference I had the opportunity to catch up with my former college from my last school.  We had a great time chatting and she was able to take me to a few of the more interesting places in Hong Kong.

Notes

I could probably go on for days about the workshop and all the information that I gathered.  However, instead of doing that I thought I would share with you my notes from the various presentations that I was able to attend.  Please note that these are rough notes meant for me to help recall and record the events.  If you have any questions or would like to know more please feel free to comment.

Friday Extended Session
Keynotes
The Great Debate
Saturday Sessions
 
On Saturday January 19th teachers from across Korea had the opportunity to attend a workshop led by the fantastic Alan November.  The seminar was incredibly interesting and provided examples of success and failures.  For those of you unable to attend the workshop I have decided to put my notes online for people to view here*.He also provided suggested several tools to use in the classroom that I hadn't used before and am planning to implement within my classroom.

Class Dojo

Before the seminar I had played around with Class Dojo but haven't really used it because I wasn't sure how I could work with it.  During the conversation someone mentioned that they have the IB Learner Profile and Attitudes loaded into it (a great idea).  As Mr. November was speaking he told of a story of how a teacher uses it to promote a class discussion about behaviour at the end of everyday.  I am currently in the process of setting this up with my class to try to promote and reward good behaviour.  The app is available across platforms. 

Poll Everywhere

I have always been looking for an instant polling site that would allow me to create questions and receive intant feedback from my audience.  As soon as Mr. November demonstrated Poll Everywhere I was hooked and a weird creative idea came to my head.  The next unit of study of my grade level is all about beliefs and values.  This can be somewhat of a complex idea to for students to grasp.  Using Poll Everywhere I plan to create a Choose Your Own Adventure style story and have the students choose the outcome of the story based upon the moral and ethics of the class.  There are of course many different iterations that this could take and ties directly into our Math unit on data collection.
 

Purpose and Background

This post is to provide insight into my COETAIL Course 5 Project.  At the end of last school year I asked if it would be possible for the Grade 4 students at the school I was transferring to could be given individual Google accounts,  I was extremely happy when I was told that they could.  During one of our initial sessions in the computer lab the students were asked to read through the Internet Policy.  I was curious and asked a simple question, "How many of you understand what you have just read?"  It came as no shock to me that only about half of the students understood the policy.  As I left school that day I thought about how best we could work with the student's to create a policy that they understand, while also having them make use of Google Apps.

An Initial Brewing

During several conversations with the teaching team that I work with, we came up with an idea to provide the students with a Google Apps bootcamp.  To demonstrate mastery of Google Apps the students would then work collaboratively to research and educate others in the class about Digital Citizenship/Digital Footprints.

Google Apps

To begin with I introduced the students to Gmail and how to sort e-mail, add labels, filter, archive,  create contacts, reply, and Google Chat.  I also provided them  with an introduction into Google Calendar.  This aspect has just been completed and over the next couple of weeks the students will be introduced to Google Docs.  To help with the implementation of Google Apps I have been creating video tutorials using Camtasia 2 and posting them to my Vimeo account.  The advantage to having the students trained in Google Docs is that I can share everything with the students digitally (rubrics, checklists, assignments, resources) and they can do the same for me.  This will hopefully increase opportunities for reflections, commenting, and collaborations.

Digital Citizenship

In order to help the students understand the issues behind digital citizenship they will be broken up into speciality groups.  For the initial note-taking process all students will be asked to use a Google Doc template.  Once the students finish the note-taking process they will be asked to create a multi-media campaign to help promote various aspects of digital citizenship.  Once completed the class will create a shared Digital Citizenship Policy that is written by them, for them and hopefully minimal teacher guidance.

Reflections

As you can probably tell by some of my wording that this project is ongoing and will hopefully wrap up before the Christmas Holidays.  So far the students have completed the Gmail and Calendar tutorials but have yet to get into Google Docs.  Despite the delay in this particular unit I have noticed a change in how my students are communicating and already have some reflections for next year.

My students have been very quick to pick up on Gmail and Google Chat.  It has been a joy to see them learning how to sort through and filter their e-mail.  The students feel comfortable e-mailing me for forgotten documents or due dates.  One student in particular sent me Google Chat message over the holiday asking for a tutorial on how to screen record on a Mac.  This type of communication allows me to tailor lessons and resources more carefully to my students and allows them to practice online communication skills with someone they know and trust.

Making tutorial videos is a task that I enjoy doing.  Currently I am using Camtasia 2 and learning how to make my videos look more professional.  When my videos are ready, I upload them onto my Vimeo account and send a note out to the class.  If we are in the IT lab I will go over it first with the whole class and answer any questions.  They can then watch the Vimeo videos if they need refreshers.  This allows me to focus on students who need extra assistance or allows me to push the students who grasp it easily. Instead of answering the same questions over and over again I tell them to watch the tutorial.  That said my tutorials thus far have not been fancy.  One major change for next year is that I would make sure that each tutorial only focusses on one skill or aspect of Gmail or Google Docs.  Several of my videos included multiple concepts, which confused some students.

Overall I'm enjoying the process of educating the students about Google Apps and Google Docs.  However, I feel that the emphasis should be there from the beginning and it should be a full UoI for six weeks.  This would allow the students to gain the knowledge and skills necessary to take full advantage of these tools and thus allow their full usage much earlier on in the school year. This year the unit was done during two lessons a week of ICT.  I felt that this was not sufficient and the students would need reminding of skills.  By having this be the focus of a UoI the students will be given daily reinforcements.   Also, by having a specific tech lessons each week, it helped to reinforce the idea that technology is something special that is only used sometimes.  This is not the message that I want to send to my students.  Perhaps conducting some of these lessons in class using the laptops and other devices would help alleviate this problem.

SAMR Model

A major component of the evaluation of the big project is student demonstration of online collaboration using Google Apps and the creation of a multimedia informational campaign. Looking at the SAMR model I believe this meets redefinition as both the means of communication and creation of the final product would not be possible without the technology available today.

Extra Resources

All of the resources that I am using will be made available here.  More resources will be added as students begin to find their own resources and rubrics and checklists are finalized.

Image Credits 

Modification by ianguest, found on Flickr, Creative Commons Licensed 

Special Thanks

Over the past year and half I have met many wonderful people.  There are four people in particular I would like to thank for the culminations.  The first is of course my brother.  Without his constant editing and pushing me to clarify my ideas my posts would not as nice.  To @DBullio, thank you for encouraging me to follow the path and take the course with him.  Really it was like twisting a rubber arm.  @seansensei, I can't thank you enough for agreeing to work with me on that little project.  I can't wait to start editing and revising it during the cold winter months.  Finally to the instructors and fellow students of Cohort 1 of COETAIL at YIS, thank for you expanding my mind and encouraging me to try new things, accept failure, and dream of a world where our classrooms are flat and our students have no walls preventing them from furthering their learning or coming up with new and interesting ways to share their learning.
 
Picture
It's been a wonderful year.
As this is my last official post for the Certificate of Online Educational Technology and Information Literacy program offered at Yokohama International School through the State University of New York, I thought I would take this time to reflect back on what this program has meant to me, how it has shaped my teaching, and where I see myself going professionally from here.  I remember sitting in my PYP coordinator’s office debating whether or not I should sign up for the program.   He encouraged me to do it as I had already become the tech person in the elementary school and he suggested that it would help me professionally move into a new phase of my teaching.  I am so glad that he did.

Over the past year and a half it has been a pleasure to get to meet and work with so many wonderful and talented individuals.  I always looked forward to our course meetings I always came away with new ideas to help integrate technology and was consistently challenged to rethink how I viewed the use of tech in the classroom.  It has been a way for me to gain valuable resources, meet new people, and have a great deal of fun while doing it.

As my knowledge grew, my passion for educational technology continued to grow and my building enthusiasm spread to others.  Eventually I was asked to present to the parents about technology education and what the trends were.   After the presentation I was also asked to give the presentation to the staff.  Being given these opportunities was extremely rewarding and I hope to have many other opportunities to contribute to the life and growth of my school through presentations to other teachers and students. 

Probably one of the most important lessons I learned was how to develop and cultivate my own personal learning network.  There are many free sites that offer wonderful pieces of advice for integrating technology.  However, I in turn must be willing put myself out there and share my success as well as my failures.

Finally, I want to say a sincere thank you to the Cohort 1 instructors and fellow participatants.   Your passion and knowledge of educational technology and trends have pushed me to new heights and understanding.  If this course was not offered, I would not have gotten the job I have now, I would not be working on developing my PLN, and more importantly I probably wouldn’t have a sweet clue about how to adapt my teaching style to meet the needs of students who never know a world without Google, iPods, iPhones.  Thank you everyone for your guidance and support I’m sure all of Cohort 1 are grateful and I wish you all the best for Cohort 2.

Credits

Calendar by tanekawho, found on Flickr, Creative Commons Licensed
 
Over the past couple of years I have been wondering how I can best create a physical environment within my classroom that is technology friendly.  I want my students to use the tools not only as vessels in which they can obtain data but are able to use them create and contribute.  It’s a difficult goal to reach but one that I am striving towards.  For this blog post I am going to explore different ways that I allow my students to use technology on a daily basis:

Weekly Talks:
            Each student in my class is given three minutes each week to talk about a specified topic.  As part of this routine they are to use visual aides to help the other students understand their talk.  Most students usually choose to include a PowerPoint.  While this may seem like a small and simple way to include technology, it has allowed me to give them honest feedback about their presentation style and use of the tool.

Field Trips:
            When we go on field trips I encourage my students to bring a camera or device that will allow them to record what they see.  This allows them to create interesting displays and helps them reflect on the activities that they participated in.

Computers:
            In my classroom I currently have 4 computers that are available to the students to use at any time.  This allows me to create differentiated classroom experiences for the students.  When I book out one of the laptop trolleys it means that I have one computer for every student in my classroom.  This is incredibly helpful when introducing the students to a new resource.

Google Apps:
            Currently my students are undergoing a Google Apps training seminar and learning how to use these applications to increase their productivity and improve collaboration.   In order to demonstrate that they know how to use the tools, the students will be working together to research and produce their own digital citizenship code of ethics.

SmartBoard:
            Usually when I introduce a new concept or idea I turn to the SmartBoard that I have in my classroom.  The students love participating in SmartBoard lessons and coming up to the board and working on the examples that are provided.

BrainPop:
            We recently got a subscription to BrainPop.  The students enjoy the videos and participating in the activities afterwards.  As a class we usually watch the video once without commenting.  On our second viewing I have a student at the computer and anytime there is an important point and have a class discussion.

My use of technology and the continual integration of it into my everyday practice is one that I know cannot happen overnight and requires patience.  I have experienced both success and failures.  I have had to modify what I thought were fantastic ideas.  However, I preserve to find new ways for my students to use technology because I with the changes that I’ve already made, I can see the benefits in their engagement and learning.  It has been a rollercoaster so far and one that I am enjoying immensely.

Credits

Google Apps for Education Overview by John R. Sowaah, found on YouTube 
 
Over the past few months I have been thinking about education trying to justify what actually needs to be taught in a world where information is just a few clicks a away and the phrase “just Google it” has become a part of our educational lexicon.  Since information is so easy to get now, what truly needs to be taught? Do we need to teach force students to remember specific dates of important historical events?  As the world becomes smaller through the use of technology, we as educators must force ourselves to analyze what is truly important and what needs to be the focus.  The following are my suggestions:

Learning:

More than anything I think we need to instill a love of learning into our students.  I remember sitting in many a class thinking my time would be better spent doing something else.  Yes I completed all the work and I played the game, but it wasn’t until university when I was allowed to fully choose what I wanted to learn. It was only then that I truly started to love learning and I haven’t stopped loving it since.  How to instill this lesson into students is an argument for another post but Sir Ken Robinson has a wonderful talk on how schools are killing creativity.



Collaboration:

Schools often use group work in class as a way to help students learn from and with each other and to learn the value of sharing work.  However, as technology makes coloration amongst schools easier to use, we must address issues of cultural differences*, the skills of working with people in different time zone, and the value of teamwork. 

Digital Citizenship:

The world has changed a lot since I was a child; it has changed a lot since I finished my education degree.  The students I teach can’t imagine a world without technology but there are many times where they simply don’t know about how to conduct themselves online.  Last year as I spoke to my students about downloading, more than half did not realize that downloading music and videos off the Internet for free is can be illegal depending on the situation.  During a conversation on Facebook, the majority indicated that they had an account despite being under the age of 13.   I told them that they had lied about their age which is technically against the terms of service.  Digital citizenship includes much more than just legal arguments but also creativity, privacy, cyber bullying, and addressing the digital divide etc.  If these skills are not taught we are doing our students a great disservice.

Balance:

The idea of living a balanced life is an important one.  Ensuring that students understand the importance of making face-to-face relationships, exercise, and learning when to turn off the screen is an important skill. 

If you’ll notice I did not put in any specific traditional content but instead focused on skills that I feel are important.  By teaching these skills within the framework of traditional required contents one can have a truly innovative program of education.  For example, if I was doing an unit on history and was having the students contduct research into Canadian lives during World War II, I would easily tie aspects of digital citizenship by talking about attribution of source material.  I would also allow my students create their own end product in a way that allows them to demonstrate their understanding.  In other words the key is to succeffully blend the skills of the modern age using the required knowledge base to form the backbone. 

Notes:

*Of course cultural differences are already being addressed within many schools but it needs to continue to be addressed as the world becomes smaller through digital technology.

Credits

 
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Can you imagine a world without Google? Are we doing students a disservice by becoming to relient on one company?
I am very fortunate that this year the students in my grade level were given their Google accounts..  This would allow me to teach the students how to use Google’s suite of apps to collaborate amongst themselves and others and to help them learn how to manage their e-mail and calendars.  So far this year the students have learned how to use Gmail (sending e-mail, adding attachments, creating contacts, labels, filters) and Google Calendar (creating their own calendar, adding events, sharing calendars, hiding calendars).  This has been an extremely rewarding experience for both my students and myself.  It has been wonderful to see them catch onto these tools very quickly.  After reading the following articles I began to think of a world without Google:

Here’s Why Google and Facebook Might Completely Disappear in 5 Years

Why Google Could Disappear in Five Years

Analyst:  Google Could Disappear in Five Years

Why Google Could Disappear in Five Years

Essentially the argument is that Google and other Web 2.0 sites like Facebook are struggling to find a way to make profits as effectively on mobile platforms as they did a few short years ago on standard platforms.   The main person referenced in the articles above refers tech companies that were popular during the early days of the consumption only web but struggled with the switch to the more social aspects of Web 2.0.  He argues that he is seeing many of the same difficulties with web-sites that thrived in the Web 2.0 environment but are struggling to monetize as we continue to move towards mobile platforms. .  While this may be a valid argument, I don’t think Google is going to go anywhere anytime soon and here’s why:

Google has successfully integrated its way into our cultural much like Microsoft, Monsanto, and Apple.  It started off simply as a search engine and slowly added services by buying companies that either competed directly with them or provided a service they thought would be useful.  With each purchase, Google become more than a search engine, it became a way for people to communicate with each other (Gmail), work collaboratively on documents (Google Documents), organize our lives (Google Calendar), share photos and videos instantly (Picassa and YouTube), and take virtual tours of the world (Google Earth).  In the education world this service is changing the way we communicate and work with our students, parents, and colleges. 

However, there is always the possibility that Google will fold.  Looking back at the past 20 years of technological innovation is like looking at a massive graveyard.  There are many examples of companies that people thought were to big to fold.  Should I instead of focusing on one suite of applications be focusing on teaching a variety of methods to do the same thing?  When does it all become too much for the students?  When does it become too much for the teacher?  Can we effectively teach and assess the use of a variety of tools?  What is the best way to teach a multitude of tools?  Do you teach them all at once or do you focus on a few key programs at each grade level and allow them build upon their knowledge from years past?

    Author

    Brendan is an international school teacher.  He currently teaches grade 4 at Busan International Foreign School.

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