Looking For Learning In 21st Century Classrooms

Presenting a workshop at the Lower Canada College “Re-Think IT” conference. Alan November doing the keynote.
A leadership guide to supporting and coaching best practice technology use across the curriculum.

Administrators are given the charge to foster professional development of teachers through classroom observation, walk-throughs and overall supervision. In recent years, technology has changed significantly and the world has altered alongside that change. Education has begun the process of including technology, but finds variety in teacher expertise and practice. What questions can supervisors ask of their teachers to best

Leveraging social media for independent school advancement

Today the York School hosted CAISAP – the Canadian Association of Independent Schools’ Advancement Professionals and their annual share and collaboration day. Advancement professionals from around the Canadian Independent School system came to reflect on the year that was and compare notes. I was asked to talk about the role that social media could play in the advancement of schools. We had a great breakout session following the presentation which was really interesting. Here are the slides from my talk.

MESH 2009 – Toronto’s answer to TED


On April 7th and 8th of next week I am really excited to be attending and speaking at Canada’s most innovative web conference. MESH.
This will be a great opportunity to listen, talk to and learn from some of Canada’s most forward thinking entrepreneurs, writers and web experts. More importantly I am keen to talk to people in all different fields of work about the skills and qualities that they are looking when they hire employees. This new E-conomy requires a new breed of team player/worker/learner and we as educators need to prepare our students for the world that awaits them.

Take a look as some of the great workshops and panels in store:

  • The Future of News
  • Using Social Media for Good
  • How the Web is Changing the Way We Learn
  • Managing Personas Online
  • Search Engine Optimization 101
  • Managing Community Online

See the full schedule here

I have been invited to sit on a panel for the session entitled “How the Web is Changing the Way We Learn” moderated by Sacha Chua. Sacha holds a strangely similar position to mine as a Enterprise 2.0 consultant at IBM. She states:

I help companies and people learn how to use Web 2.0 tools such as blogs, wikis, and social bookmarking in order to be more productive and to collaborate more effectively.

Sitting next to me on the panel will be John Philip Green of LearnHub.com and Clare Brett (Associate Professor in the Department of Curriculum Teaching and Learning at OISE/UT). All of us are involved in various aspects of education will be speaking about the deep impact that the web is having on the way we learn, the way we teach and education in general.

In preparation for the panel I have been asked to reflect and share my perspective on the following questions. While I am sure we will go deeper I just wanted to sketch my initial thinking here.

What is the biggest technology-related challenge facing teachers and students today?

This new generation of students feels just as comfortable around a computer as their parents do around a radio. They continue to wow us with their ability to digest and adapt to new and evolving technologies while at the same time testing our comfort zones when it comes to issues concerning their safety and privacy. The challenge facing students today is that they have only ever known a networked world but lack the wisdom to manage and leverage it effectively, safely and ethically. The constant pace at which technology changes makes it difficult for schools, teachers and curriculum to keep up. The question that is often asked by parents is “Where and when will my student learn and develop this new literacy?” The answer is being formed in schools everywhere but is still in its infancy. In my mind teacher training and professional development is the key to this process.

What do you see is the biggest factor that will change in the next three years?

With respect to the web it will be a further shift to online applications . As connection speeds continue to increase more and more software companies will move their products online which offer collaborative opportunities which were once not possible. Google Apps will continue to infiltrate team and group projects and classrooms will continue to connect with eachother around the world. Toronto will see the birth of eLearning Consortium http://ciselc.com . Thirteen CIS Independent Schools have collaborated to create online course opportunities for students within in a not-for-profit eLearning Consortium. This will be the first time high school students within the independent school system will be able to attain credits online.

What is your ideal vision for the Web and education in the next three years?

Traditional education is slow to change. K-12 schools are by definition “walled gardens” of learning. All the content, curriculum and student work is housed inside where it is safe and collaboration between schools is rare. The ethos of the new web has yet to penetrate our schools fully. Today it has never been easier to share ideas, broadcast learning, communicate, collaborate and enable positive change. Opportunities to give our students authentic audiences for their work, solicit feedback and tap into outside expertise has never been greater. I would like to see more K-12 classes sharing and broadcasting their learning “out” as well as inside schools and continue to reinforce that the web is such a powerful tool in “making a difference.”

What are the key gaps that need to be filled?

The evolution of the web and sites like wikipedia are also forcing teachers and schools to rethink the ways they teach “research” and information literacy. The fact that anyone can produce and publish content challenges our ideas about truth, authority and trust. It has never been more important to prepare students for this new information landcape. We role that the “library” plays in school is now more important that ever but the scope of what it does has profoundly changed.

What is one concrete next action people in the audience can take to make things better?

If you are a parent or teacher: Play games, sign up for social networking sites and get literate.

If you are a student: Think before you post!

Internet Safety – Debunking Conventional Wisdom

Search Engine is a weekly podcast hosted by Jesse Brown of the CBC . It focuses on current issues surrounding technology and social media. A few weeks back this episode was aired which revealed some interesting findings from a US wide study on the online solicitation of minors. The finding are really interesting. I have edited the podcast down to just the segment dealing with internet safety to save you time. I recommend adding this program to your regular listening list. It is always quality.

Internet Safety

Click on the link to play the clip: The State of Internet Safety

Some interesting quotes from the show.

“Kids do encounter frequent sexual harrassment, abuse and solicitation online but it is far more likely to come from other kids.”

“We could find no cases where solicitation of minors occurred on social media sites like Facebook and myspace”

“Law reinforcement is far more successful at luring predators than predators are at luring kids”

“Some at risk teens actively seek out attention online and engage in risky behavior in unmonitored chatrooms”

What do you think?

Are we starting to come out from under a veil of conventional wisdom that has led us to believe that the internet is full of predators and is unsafe?

If our students are the ones causing most of the problems where should we be directing our energy?

My podcast picks


People often ask me for podcast suggestions. While I do add and delete feeds from my Itunes on a regular basis there are a few that have stood the test of time. Here are some of my favorites.

1. The Economist

Global news from around the world. Science, Business, Technology, Economics and more. This podcast is FULL of current information. If you or your school already receive the print addition of the Economist then you automatically have access to the full audio podcast download. Contact your librarian for details. Over eight hours of continuous news each week! All read in a comforting English accent I might add.

Weekly Selections: Link to Itunes

Full Version: http://www.economist.com/audioedition/

2. Search Engine

Search Engine with host Jesse Brown. A blog and podcast about the Internet and technology. Very current and entertaining. One of my faves and Jesse is Canadian!

Subscribe in iTunes …. Subscribe via RSS….. rss link Blog Feed


Ideas worth spreading, a podcast worth listening/watching. 20 minute lectures on all sorts of great topics. I just watched a recent one on The Art of Baking Bread that blew me away. I have learned more from this podcast in the past few years than any other source. I also love that fact that it is also in video.

Itunes link

4) Big Ideas – Celebrating the art of the lecture.

“BIG IDEAS is a showcase of ideas that shape our public debates. At their best the lectures featured on the program expose us to the differing ways of defining what matters and how that affects our understanding of the world as it is and as it is likely to be,”. “Each age has a set of questions by which it defines itself. If, 50 years from now, someone came across a list of BIG IDEAS shows, they would have a pretty good idea of what people thought about and debated in the early 2000s.”

Links to the audio and video podcast

5) The Onion

Looking for some humor and levity in your day. The Onion has been a source of both for me for a while. A laugh a day is sometimes the best medicine to all ailments. If you have ever lived in Thailand or appreciate sports commentary you will love this bit, It is my absolute favorite.

Itunes link

Ngyuen Thi Buch Thuy: ‘Just Give Me The Damn Sepak Takraw Ball’

Government 2.0 – Cliché or Reality on the Horizon?

I know it is cliché to add 2.0 to everything but after watching this video about one of U.S administrations dynamic new groups—the TIGR (Technology, Innovation and Government Reform) Team, its hard not to feel that some exciting changes are on the horizon. The Change.gov blog keeps blowing me away with its content.

Talk of opening up the government data to everyone, mash-ups and remixing of information from the U.S government?

This is the kind of change I can believe in.

Watch the video.

What do you think?

Cross posted at: http://www.utechtips.com/

Predictions for 09′

Cross posted at www.utechtips.com

Greetings from Canada and happy new year!

Before I get started on my new years resolution of posting here on a regular basis I wanted to make some predictions for the coming year. A chance to peek into the crystal ball and make some educated guesses as to what will impact schools, classrooms and learning this year. I can look back in 359 days and see if I was missed the mark or hit things right on.

Here are my top 5 predictions for 09′

1) Location, Location, Location – Geography will heat up in 09′

2009 will be the year of GPS. Camera, phones and computers are all starting to come loaded with GPS devices and this will dramatically change the way people think about place and location. “Geo-tagging” will gain more momentum this year as tools are developed that allow users to attach geographic information easily to just about anything. Student will gain a new and authentic appreciation for latitude and longitude when they are able to geo-tag their iphone pictures and throw them into google earth with one click.

2) “We have to do things in a new way” – 2009 participatory government begins

If you havn’t visited the Change.gov site since the U.S election wrapped up a few months ago then its worth visiting just to see how this new administration is already using social media tools of all kinds to engage to the public, stimulate discussion and create open and transparent lines communication with the population that elected them. If there was ever a doubt about the power these tools have and their relevance in todays classrooms one need only read and watch this address to see that a new age is upon us and we should all be running to keep up.

3) Twitter and micro-blogging will be solidified as news sources this year.

For those of us who use Twitter or any other micro-blogging platform on a regular basis the power is easy to see. For the vast majority of people these tools are still no more than strange words lacking context or application. This will be the year that changes all that. The recent events in Israel and Gaza have seen participatory media applications like Twitter and Youtube used not only by individuals on the ground to describe what is going on but now also by the states/governments in conflict to shape the news for their own purposes.

Media literacy for our teachers and students has never been more important.

4) Net Neutrality will be a major issue in 09′

You wouldn’t know it but in Canada there is a war going on over the internet and who controls it. It might be going on where you live as well. This year will see this issue bubble over and leap onto the front page as governments, business and the public all wrestle for control of this frontier.

What is Network Neutrality?

Network neutrality is the principle that all information that is sent over the Internet should be treated equally. What does that really mean? It means that ISPs should not influence the content that you see or the applications that you use. Network neutrality is a design principle which aims to allow the transmission of all kinds of information and the use of all kinds of applications. It also means that all sites will load the same, and users are free to go to sites of their choosing.

For more info see: http://whatisnetneutrality.ca/

5) MUSIC will be set Free – DRM will die this year.

Since the birth of the MP3 teachers, students and parents have all shared conversations about downloading music and the right and responsibilities surrounding the distribution of this art form. Itunes sold its 6 billionth song last year however until now all songs had DRM or digital rights management attached. I believe this year will see the end of this which has MAJOR implications for the future of copyright, creative commons and creativity accross the globe.

Hold tight!

A look ahead
Image credit: Solfrost