Professional Learning


What CAN I Learn Today? #edCampSWO #edCampLDN 7


edCamps_SWO_LDN
While I had originally thought I might take in #edCampSWO (SouthWest Ontario) in Tillbury, ON at the last minute, it turned out not to be the case. Add to the mix a similar interest in also attending a second Ontario #edCamp being held on the same day in the same end of the province, #edCampLDN (London), and the dilemma truly magnified. What to do?

The OSEEMOOC spearheaded by Donna Fry (@fryed) and Mark Carbone (@markwcarbone) has been underway for a little over a month now, and Donna’s current challenge to Ontario educators is to share a “What Did I Learn Today” post with the community.   With this in mind, I decided to undertake to explore a “What CAN I Learn Today?” question, with the focus of following two Ontario #edCamps from afar.

OSSEMOOC

Face to Face Learning Rocks!

“#edCampQuinte 3 — Participants Around the Table” by @aforgrave, on Flickr

I will admit to a strong bias in favour of face-to-face learning with Twitter colleagues at an actual event. Twitter conversations last night with Rodd Lucier (@thecleversheep), Brenda Sherry (@brendasherry), and Peter McAsh (@pmcash) reinforced for me that a significant effect of #edCamps and other such gatherings is the opportunity to converse with educator colleagues and friends between the sessions. It’s difficult to replace that in-person presence. Having been involved in the organization of #edCampQuinte (3 camps back in 2011), and having attended #edCampToronto (twice), #edCampWR (twice), #edCampOttawa, (as well as following the original #edCampPhilly remotely via Twitter), I’m firmly convinced that in-person attendance is the ideal way to go.

However, knowing that I would be attempting to follow the conversations and the sessions from a distance, my efforts switched to looking for a variety of ways to capture experience and the discussions occurring within and via the ether of the Internet.

Following from Afar

  1. The first step in my adventure was to create a couple of columns in my TweetDeck Twitter client to follow the #edCampSWO and #edCampLDN hashtags in real-time.
  2. In support of archiving the conversations for later review, I also made use of Martin Hawksey’s (@mhawksey) ever-evolving TAGS google-spreadsheet-scripted-visualization tool.  Not only does the tool create a spreadsheet of archived tweets from a given #tag, but it also allows for the creation of an interactive and continuously updated visualization of the participants and their conversations.
TwoTagClouds

Screen captures of the Twitter clouds from #edCampSWO and #edCampLDN

The static screen capture above doesn’t do the clouds justice. Click below to view the actual dynamic interactive archives – they’re amazing!

Understanding the Scheduling

#edCampSWO Session board via

#edCampSWO Session board via

Because the schedules at most #edCamps are participant-generated in real time from grass roots interests during the events themselves, a pre-posted schedule is usually avoided. Normally, the session board is compiled following a crowd-sourcing exercise involving either sticky-post-it-notes or whiteboards.

  1. A quick check of the #edCampSWO twitter stream led to an already tweeted picture of the initial board from Tilbury.
  2. I didn’t see a similar photograph out of London, so I posted a quick inquiry to the #tag, and within moments received two replies (from Craig Yen (@craigyen) and David Hann (@TeacherHann)) alerting me to the fact that the #edCampLDN board was being maintained in a Google Doc.  Wonderful! Check out the topics (image from start of the afternoon)
#edCampLDN Session Board posted in Google Docs

#edCampLDN Session Board posted in Google Docs

But it got better.

Collaborative Note-Taking

Not only was the #edCampLDN schedule posted online, but each entry included a link to a blank gDoc for collaborative note-taking! Great thinking!   I quickly paged through and pasted in a request to each document to capture the name and twitter handle of the session facilitators for later followup.

But what about #edCampSWO? Surely such a system might provide useful for collaborative note-taking there as well? What was required to support a similar opportunity there?

  1. Transfer the #edCampSWO session board to a gDoc.
  2. Create linked gDocs (with requests for session facilitators and their @twitter coordinates) for #edCampSWO sessions.
  3. Tweet out invitations for the #edCampSWO participants to post their notes in the appropriate documents.

By 12:30 pm I had followed through with steps 1-3 above, and by 1:00 pm had incorporated the recently-added afternoon entries to the schedule and and linked gDocs for the remaining sessions.  Shortly thereafter there were responses from Michelle Korda (@KordaKovar), Emily Fitzpatrick (@ugdsb_missfitz), Michel Grimard (@miche4195), Brian Aspinall (@mraspinall), Mary Alice Hanson (@Ms_Hanson) expressing interest in the shared note-taking endeavour.

#edCampSWO Session Board in Google Docs

#edCampSWO Session Board in Google Docs

The invitations stands for any and all attendees at #edCampSWO to transfer your notes, links, thoughts and ideas into the shared note files.

Attending a Cross-#edCamp Session Keynote via Google Hangout

Doug Peterson (@dougpete) keynotes at #edCampSWO on April 12th

Doug Peterson (@dougpete) keynotes at #edCampSWO on April 12th, animated GIF by @aforgrave

#edCampSWO had a post-lunch keynote by Ontario’s “Grandfather of EdTech” Doug Peterson (@dougpete). As it turned out, the keynote was shared from #edCampSWO to #edCampLDN via Google Hangout, and so the opportunity for shared note taking between both venues was enhanced — as well as providing an opportunity for me to join in and see Doug’s presentation. As it would turn out, the notes in the gDoc are mostly mine.   It was nice to connect briefly with #unplug’d12 friend James Cowper (@cowpernicus) who set up the Hangout, and to bring in #ECOO and #edCampQuinte colleague Peter McAsh (@pmcash).  These are all some folks I would have been catching up with F2F, had I actually been in either Tilbury or London today in First Life. 

Trending

After Doug’s keynote, I again re-issued the invite for folks at #edCampSWO to collaborated in the shared notes, and then went back to monitoring the Twitter stream. At around 2:30, a few spammers started to join in the #tags, which prompted a question in the stream as to whether the #edCamp conversations might be trending. Trending conversations attract these silly spambots. 

Screen capture of trending tags (both!) as shown by trendsmap.com

Trending tags (both #edCampSWO and #edCampLDN are there) as shown by trendsmap.com at around 2:30 pm April 12

Conversations in Other Online Spaces?

Earlier in the day (at 10:48 am my text document indicates) I noted to myself that I tend to monitor things from the Twittersphere for the most part — and I wondered at the time if there were #edCampSWO and #edCampLDN conversations going on via other networksGoogle+ and Facebook specifically. At around 4:00 pm, as the #edCamp goodbye and thank-you tweets were flowing, I looked in on both the other two networks and did searches for both of the Ontario #tags.

A solitary #edCampSWO #edCampLDN post on Facebook

A solitary #edCampSWO #edCampLDN post on Facebook

  • 1 mention (for both #edCampSWO and #edCampLDN) on Google+ (from Mark Carbone, announcing Doug’s dual-edCamp Hangout)
  • 2 co-mentions for both #edCampSWO and #edCampLDN on Facebook
  • 3 unique mentions for #edCampSWO on Facebook
  • 0 unique mentions for #edCampLDN on Facebook

So, No. Real-time conversations tagged with #edCampSWO and #edCampLDN were essentially only happening within the Twitter online space.  Not a real surprise, as Twitter has been extremely effective among those Ontario Educators who have embraced social media over the last half-decade. Google+ was kind of late to the party, and Facebook tends to reflect a more personal, rather than professional focus.

Pinterest? Nope. Nothing there.

So. What DID I Learn Today?

First some general acknowledgements.

  1. Tracking #tags is a great way to gather information from afar (people, links) for subsequent followup.
  2. Most of the conversation during and about the sessions occurred in the Twittersphere, not Facebook or Google+.
  3. Sharing sessions via Google Hangouts work well. (Hangouts can now also be recorded to YouTube for asynchronous sharing.)
  4. Shared, collaborative Google docs present a wonderful, as-yet mostly-untapped potential for collaborative learning.
  5. Gathering/Curating/Sharing a list of subsequent reflective blogposts from #edCamps to continue the conversations is often only a serendipitous effort at best.

Some Suggestions:

  1. Future #edCamps might wish to promote a shared, online schedule and note taking function like #edCampLDN modelled today. Getting folks involved in advance and having some folks working behind the scenes to support and facilitate the note-taking.
  2. Have one audience member sit up front and share each session via a Hangout or livestream as an option for those who can’t attend. It is easy enough to do today with the wonderfully accessible technology existing today.
  3. Select dates for #edCamps in conjunction with other organizers to allow for some potential cross-#edCamp sessions — but also consider scheduling events within the same area on different dates to maximize the opportunities for F2F participants to attend both. (The next two upcoming Ontario #edCamps also scheduled for the same day — May 10th: #edCampSault in Sault Ste. Marie and #edCampIsland on Manitoulin Island.) Note that there were 9 #edCamps held today around the world — a new record for one day, I believe.
  4. Photos! Pictures say a lot, and help others from afar to see the goings on.  I enjoy sharing photos from the #edCamps I attend — and missed not being able to capture some of the action today. Consider arranging for one or two attendees to act as #edCamp photographers and share their images via a Flickr set.
  5. Encourage attendees to blog and share their reflections and learnings. Find a way to curate the posts to help attendees and others learn from the #edCamp after it is over, and to promote ongoing conversations.

Do We All Need a Designated Person-On-The-Ground? Or Can We Be That for Each Other?

I recall with fondness asking tweeps Danika (@DanikaBarker) and Zoe (@zbpipe) and Doug (@dougpete) to act as my personal Advance-ManPerson-On-The-Ground in their respective parts of Ontario to keep an ear to the ground for the as-then-yet-unannounced dates of opening for new Apple Stores. That’s another story, but the idea of having someone working with you in another location is a powerful one.

It would be a difficult task to line up individuals for all the various sessions happening at a distant event (especially when #edCamp attendance and session topics are determined rather more spontaneously than other conferences) — but the idea of a collective, collaborative shared Team-On-The-Ground acting collaboratively for others is a powerful one.

It would be wonderful to see this become yet another characteristic of the evolving, grass-roots #edCamp experience.

So, What Did YOU Learn Today?

I look forward to reading the still-accruing notes and yet-to-come blog posts from both #edCampSWO and #edCampLDN. And looking back through the Twitter stream to search out photos to help visualize the events. I know that there is a lot of learning that will follow on from today — seeking it out and making use of it is both the challenge and the adventure.  🙂

In the interests of helping to aggregate posts that come from today, these Google forms may come in handy. Please consider sharing your thoughts and your learning!

What did you learn today?


Let’s Look Behind the Cloud of the #ontsm Tag 16

“#ontsm Visualized” by aforgrave, on Flickr

There is a wonderful opportunity for Learners and Learning lingering behind this visual representation of participants who used the #ontsm Twitter tag over the past 60 hours or so. Dig into the conversations and tweets, and join into the conversation yourself.  While this cloud capture image was made last night, there’s a whole related, yet untagged story developing on Twitter today and the emerging collection of blogs posts that have arisen since yesterday’s Pearson social media “summit” event. More will follow.

While I hope to find the focus and the time to extend my thoughts again on this blog in the coming days, at this point I’d like to float out some initial points that (I think) folks need to let resonate a bit:

 What’s Going On?

  1. the traditional publishing industry is undergoing a need-to-survive process of redefinition in the age of the Internet, web 2.0+, and mobile devices; education publishers are part of this larger group
  2. social media is a rapidly growing force in our society, of which we are only beginning to understand the effects;
  3. educational institutions, governing agencies, and schools are at varying stages of an initial response to the recent advances in technology that are already exerting a massive influence on informal learning;
  4. connected educators are actively seeking and wanting to help education evolve in response to the same forces;
  5. the institutions of learning will be required to undertake the same need-to-survive process of redefinition that newspapers, the music industry, television, and other “published” media have had to address since the high-speed Internet connected world has arisen — post-secondary institutions are already at it — ask them about MOOCs.

I fear that too few educators and educational institutions are as yet actively engaged in real conversations about where formalized learning is headed in the medium-to-long term. (Envisioning where we’re headed takes research and focus, we don’t yet get support for Google 20% time for innovation in our line of work.)  Our parent partners and our society in general are not yet asking this question loudly enough — but one day, they will.  Our learners, from their own perspective, ask this question on a daily basis.

Economics and Learning

There is a not insignificant tension between the decisions made in an effort to influence / respond to economic pressures on one hand, and the laudable goal of educating ourselves and our children on the other hand;  one need only look at recent decisions within the province of Ontario related to the provincial deficit and contracts to see this at a superficial level. However dig below that and ask questions about how closely what schools do relates to the larger economic picture (standardized training for jobs, the factory model of learning, corporations the provide education content) and one can see that there is a close intertwining of the two. Stepping back and educating for the love of learning and creativity and art is hard to do from a standpoint of a business case. It’s much easier to design teaching for concrete results, than it is to create an educational environment that support learning for creativity.   Please note that I use the words teach, teacher, student, schooling distinctly from educator, learner, etc.)

Get Involved

The Pearson get-together yesterday was only one instance of a gathering of educators in one space where the beginnings of conversations about the future of learning, social media, technology, communities, pedagogies, business took place. Conversations at grass-roots edCamps are continual (to date, there have been eight instances in Ontario, edCampHamilton takes place this coming weekend), conversations at events like the annual ECOO conference (#ecoo13 bringITtogether.ca October 23-25 in Niagara Falls) are in preparation, and the conversation is ongoing during the in-between times at events like the annual August Unplugd.ca retreat in Algonquin Park. And of course these discussions occur all the time online, and at other events outside the boundaries of our province.  Anyone should feel that it’s okay to share their thoughts on these issues.

Unfortunately, it is all too easy to marginalize / ignore / dismiss / avoid that which we do not understand, or that which we fear, or not to focus attention on that great big elephant over there in the corner of the room in the hopes that it is just a figment and will go away if we wait long enough. It can be too easy to say, “that’s not my job,” or “that’s above my pay grade,” , or to feel ignored, or to delegate our collective responsibilities to someone appointed to “deal with it,” or, after countless attempts, to give up in frustration and stop trying to make a difference.  That we develop and exercise our voice as part of a collaborative effort remains one of the most important — and social — potentials that social media provides for us. For this reason, it is important — dare I say, critical — that educators understand and act to see that it clearly understood by our learners (and, by extension, society) as we move forward. Why should we let our learners be subject only to the dominant Voices of the traditional institutions and publishing agents? Should we not seek to empower everyone with an educated Voice?

Perhaps it’s time to see and ensure that our role as educators extends beyond the boundaries of our classroom walls — in the same way that we seek to integrate the external world within them.

Where is Learning going?

I invite you to join in this conversation, here, and with the authors of other posts written in conjunction with this event.


How About a Little Social Media for Your Learning? 1

This weekend, a number of Ontario educators active in the sphere of social media will be gathering in Toronto to converse about the role of social media in learning and in schools, courtesy of Pearson Canada.

Many of the participants are already known to one another through online interactions via social networks such as Twitter, Facebook, and Google Plus, and have had opportunities become familiar with the works of one another via blogs, online webinars, and other mediated means. But a significant number have also had the oh-so-familiar experience of meeting for the first time face-to-face, and in many cases have been gathering periodically in recent years at events like the OTF Teaching and Learning in the 21st Century conferences, the annual ECOO Conference (#ecoo13 bringITtogether.ca) or Minds on Media events, or get-togethers like the Google Apps for Education Ontario Summit, held this past Saturday and Sunday in Kitchener, Ontario.

“#ontsm OnYourMarkGetSetGo ItsNotARace” by aforgrave, on Flickr                                        (visualization of the #ontsm tag before the start of the event)

 

If you are interested in following the conversations via Twitter, you may wish to access one of the following:

Courtesy of the Martin Hawksey (@mhawksey) TAGS5 google script code, the tweets are being captured now and will be available as an archive after the event. There’s always lots of goodness in the raw feed. But I’m also hoping to tap into an online webinar that Martin is offering tomorrow, where he will be sharing some of his experience in unpacking the interactions stored within such collections of data — perhaps I’ll be able to share some insights coming out of this collection — in addition to insights that will no doubt come from the experience itself.

You know, the stuff that goes on in the interaction space between the tweets … 

 


Unplug’d 2011: The Change We Need

It is clear that many significant and long-lasting effects will result from Unplug’d 2011: Canadian Education Summit 2011.

Chapter 1: The Change We Need

However, one of the early and tangible products to emerge from Unplug’d 2011 will be a multiple-format publication, “Why ________ Matters.”   Comprised of a series of short essays written by unplug’d delegates, the book shares the unique perspectives of each participant, and gives a compelling voice to educators from across Canada.

The first chapter is titled, “The Change We Need.”  I had the wonderful pleasure of working together with 5 other Canadian educators on this section of the book. Together with Lorna Costantini (St. Catherines), Darren Kuropatwa (Winnipeg), Shelley Wright (Moose Jaw), Jaclyn Caulder (Penetanguishene), and Chris Harbeck (Winnipeg), we collaborated to produce this first chapter, which releases this week. My contribution, entitled “Why Self-Direction Matters,” appears within (as PDF) (ePub).

To accompany each chapter release, groups selected one personal narrative to illustrate the chapter’s chosen theme. Our group was unanimous in selecting Shelley Wright’s piece, “Why Social Justice Matters.” Her story appears below. I encourage you to listen to Shelley as she tells a story of remarkable student-led engagement.

Isn’t that an amazing example of learners engaged in a real-world task? Wow. Shelley’s students’ project truly exemplifies The Change We Need.

Subsequent chapters of “Why _________ Matters” will be released online according to the following schedule:

Chapter 2: Voices and Choices  week of August 22nd
Chapter 3: Shift Disturbing week of August 29th
Chapter 4: I Wonder  week of September 5th
Chapter 5: Creating Conditions for Change  week of September 12th
Chapter 6: Empowering Self – Empowering Others week of September 19th

Print copies of the publication will be available this fall.


Unplug’d 2011: Unplugging to Connect

by Andrew Forgrave and Kim Crawford

Central to Unplug’d was the notion of leaving the Internet behind. Various thoughts on connecting, unplugging, and focusing attention have started to emerge.

What did it feel like to unplug?

Close to The Edge

Close to The Edge by aforgrave, on Flickr (CC)

Kim: I didn’t have far to go from ‘plugged’ to ‘unplugged’. I scaled back my online presence a year ago.  Since then it has been sporadic; I lurked, but rarely participated.  For me, unplugging was only difficult in that I couldn’t text with my teenage children or search for information online (which I do a lot).

Andy: If I have the time, I tend to be online, keeping tabs on conversations that occur at all parts of the day. So while I was fully prepared to unplug, I found myself wrestling with how to choose the right time. In part, I was observing others to see how they would handle the transition to disconnect. With other folks posting to Twitter on the train north to The Edge, there was an interest in participating in the recording/telling of “the departure story.” However, upon arrival at South River, there was a great flurry of activity, and a while thereafter, about halfway through the 22 km bike ride to The Edge, I simply realized I would turn off my phone to conserve its charge. I was unplugged.

How did being unplugged shape your experience and interactions with people?

Collaboration by Kim Crawford on Flickr (CC)

Kim: I was present and focused on the moment, so I fully embraced and engaged in the experience.  At The Edge, I think we were able to practice mindfulness, without the distractions of news, people and information from outside of our Unplug’d circle.  Throughout our formal and informal conversations, we listened to what people’s eyes conveyed. We listened to gestures and body language.  We listened to the emotion in a wavering or cracking voice that we wouldn’t hear, couldn’t hear, in a tweet, and we were there to place a comforting hand on a shoulder.  We couldn’t hide behind online personas, so we exposed ourselves for who we are.  We accepted each other for who we are. And, with the focus on connection, we couldn’t help but ask “what is my connection? What can I offer?”  We formed deeper relationships by removing the barriers of time, space and pretense.

Andy: Without devices buzzing in my pocket, supported by the hyper-natural setting of The Edge, and with real-live friends front and centre, awareness of the Internet melted away. Maybe I shifted into a former at-camp mode (years ago, working at summer camp for weeks at a time, the only news came in the form of a newspaper — which I ignored).  At Unplug’d, without phones or Internet, we worked with primitives: paper & pens, even markers, paints, rocks and stone. And canoes. Without distractions of plugged-in life, conversations went deep. Really deep. These are experiences that just can’t happen online. Internet? We didn’t need no stinkin’ Internet.

How did you react to the ability to plug back in?

WiFi on the Bus, by tomfullerton, on Instagram

Kim: After sending some texts to my children, it was all about the pictures and the conversation.  We were still together on the bus when we could plug back in, so it was a group share out to those who weren’t at The Edge.  I wanted to tell a part of the story, so I used my pictures. I started editing them and planning captions.  I uploaded everything on the train from Toronto to London.

Andy: As with “the departure” from Toronto, I was interested in observing our collective response to “the return,” and the opportunity to plug-in. It came as a shock to me to discover that there would be WiFi on the return bus. I somehow felt as if nature was testing us, to see if we had learned a lesson — or not. I avoided the immediate temptation to check what was being shared on Twitter. In my head I was hearing, “I have four more hours to connect with these people face-to-face.” And I’m glad I did.
The next day back, however, after some time spent sleeping, presented the opportunity to continue conversations with Unplug’d delegates as they travelled home. And that meant being online. And online I was. Looking to carry on the discussions that we hadn’t had time to finish. Looking to make plans for future projects. Caring for new friends who were now getting further and further away. And not wanting Unplug’d to end.

How did being (at) unplug’d inspire you?

Tilting the keel

Tilting the keel by Tom Fullerton, on Flickr (CC)

Kim: I will make more of an effort to be connected both online and off.  In order to do this, I’ve generated these reminders for myself:

  • Listen first
  • Stay open to people
  • Don’t be afraid to speak your truth, but share it with kindness
  • Participate online
  • Keep moving forward even if you don’t know what the path or destination look like
  • Join forces

Andy: Unplug’d was an inspiration in many ways. With regards to the connected/disconnected tension, Unplug’d was a wonderful reminder of the benefits of stepping away from day-to-day routines to renew connections with things we overlook in our busy lives. So I’m going commit to continue to unplug; to break the habit of continual online connectedness. I do know that there’s an issue of balance in here. Too little connection and the conversation gets lost. But the other conversation is important, too. The Unplug’d experience made that very clear.

We’d like to hear from you.

What does it feel like to unplug?  How does being unplugged shape your experiences and interactions with people?  How have you reacted to the ability to plug back in?  How has being (at) unplug’d inspire you?


Conversations about Unplug’d: Canadian Education Summit 2011 2

Unplugd 2011

Unplugd 2011

by Andrew Forgrave and Kim Crawford

This past weekend, 37 connected educators from across Canada gathered in Toronto for the Unplug’d: Canadian Education Summit 2011. While we shared a few initial hours getting to meet one-another face-to-face within the relative comforts of the Toronto Westin Harbour Castle hotel, after a few hours sleep, we boarded an Ontario Northlands train to South River, Ontario. From there we travelled 22 kilometres into the bush to the Northern Edge Algonquin resort. Off-the-grid (solar power only), and no Internet.

Unplugd11: Journey

The Journey to Unplugd11

The purpose of the summit was to allow us to gather and explore present-day issues and themes within education. Each of us came from various backgrounds in education, prepared to share and discuss an important-to-us element in education. The resulting work will be shared over the course of the next few weeks. But the relationships that were made, extended, and strengthened have a wonderful potential to take the Unplug’d 2011 experience even further.

Unplugd11: Conversations

Conversations at Unplugd11

Over the the next while, Kim and I will be reflecting on this amazing experience. Won’t you join in the conversation?

First Topic:
Unplugging to Connect (publishes Friday, August 12th)

Kim’s unplugd11 photos on Flickr
Andy’s unplugd11 photos on Flickr