Monday, October 29, 2012

ECOO 2012 - Learn in the NOW Century

As is tradition, here is my reflection on my experiences at the most recent ECOO conference. Thanks to all the organizers for another great educational experience. I'll post the (very few) photos I took in a separate post.

Educational Computing Organization of Ontario

“Learning in the NOW Century”

Conference Reflections by Diana Maliszewski


Friday October 26, 2012 8:30 a.m.

Learning, Meaning, and Values in the Age of the Data Map with Nora Young

Summary = The Friday opening keynote by @nora3000 dealt with information, privacy, and digital trails. Traffic was busy so I was unable to attend the talk but the talks are archived on . I was able to connect briefly with Diana Hong, a teacher at my school also attending the conference.  There were many other familiar faces at the conference that I was happy to see and speak with, albeit briefly.

Friday October 26, 2012 9:45 a.m.

Innovative or Novel with Shannon Smith and Brent Smith

Summary = These two principals from the Ottawa Carleton District School Board wanted to know how to create learning communities where creativity thrives. OCDSB surveyed their employees to see how was happy; some didn’t feel honoured & so the board worked on celebrating the ideas of folks in the Plant Division, for example. In their interactive session, we discussed the differences between innovation and novelty and shared ideas on how nurture creativity.

3 Key Points

·         When it comes to innovation & technology, remember that you can do old things in old ways, new things in old ways, or new things in new ways > strive for the  third option

·         Tinkering, aka PLAY is a gateway to meaningful transformation (play is not a process, it’s a way of being where uncertainty is celebrated, it’s intrinsically motivating, open to possibility, cooperative, adaptable to change) > see the TED talk by Beau Lotto and Amy O’toole

·         You don’t need permission to try and it’s okay to fail (failing is data about learning, not that you are a bad teacher); repurpose space, differentiate, try creative labs or student-led seminars

So What? Now What? = Clubs are a great way to nurture creativity but in the past I felt like I was inundated with requests to run many different clubs and teams – with the “creative labs” concept, multiple types of clubs could go on simultaneously (at J. H. Putnam P.S. their creative lab time is in the school library/lab space and they have 60-70 kids doing things like Minecraft, Glee Club, Photography, moving making, etc.). Once we are done with all this contract negotiations and we choose to run clubs again, this would free me up to offer more without sacrificing too much of my precious little time.


Friday October 26, 2012 11:00 a.m.

Inquiry, Innovation and ICT with Rick Budding and Brian Smith

Summary = Encouraging developing and facilitating student inquiry is key. The sessions shared “strategies for making inquiry central to learning tasks and look at ICT tools, templates, and techniques that classroom teachers and teacher-librarians can implement collaboratively as they guide student inquiry in a variety of elementary grade levels and subjects.”

3 Key Points

·         Move away from fact seeking and you can use IT tools for all four stages of the guided inquiry process (see OSLA T4L) > for instance, at the explore stage, use curation tools like Scoopit, Pinterest, Pearl Trees, Storify, Diego, Dropbox, etc.

·         If you have a Google account, you can create a customizable search engine (

·         There are many options for the 4th stage of inquiry, think beyond the typical ones > for instance, Popcorn (described on a TED talk as dynamic remixable video), Kickstarter, Indigogo, Goodreads, Twitter, (fake) Facebook [Facebook doesn’t allow fake people accounts), Voicethread, etc.

So What? Now What? = I know and like both presenters. They were kind enough to give me and my ECOO session a shout-out during their talk. At times the list of possibilities was overwhelming (how do you choose?) but they tempered that with specific examples used in (Brian’s) classrooms. I’m working on a unit with my junior division students on how to determine if something online is true, and Brian’s reference to a “feline reaction to bearded men” website would be a great addition to my repertoire. I also want to check out the Marvel Superhero creation tool – I know many students that would love to use it.

Friday, October 26, 2012 1:15 p.m.

Play with TNT & Other Lessons from Minecraft with Liam O’Donnell, Diana Maliszewski & Denise Colby

Summary (excerpt taken from program description) = Join the GamingEdus, three TDSB teachers, as they talk about the successes and challenges behind their Multi-School Minecraft Server Project, a single virtual world open to selected low-performing TDSB students from three schools. Learn why Minecraft (and other video games) are ideal at teaching when schools seem to fait at it, get the basics on running your own Minecraft server and see how educators can use Minecraft in a student-led, inquiry-based approach that fosters authentic learning and critical thinking.

3 Key Points

·         Embrace games and learning but avoid gamification (gamification is the use of game design techniques and mechanics to enhance non-games)

·         Things like social etiquette, economics, architecture, reading, writing, all are learning experiences that came out of playing Minecraft – teachers didn’t go with these specific lessons planned, all came out of the experience of play > stories shared

·         If you want to try Minecraft with your students, you need to try it yourself (play is good for adults and kids alike) – lots of time was set aside during the presentation for people to play

So What? Now What? = As I’ve said before, it is difficult to objectively assess how well a session I’ve led has gone. The room was packed with people and the best part was that students that were there to present at a different workshop came in to play on our server and the computers we had set up. Liam, Denise and I met after the conference to reflect on our session. Our next steps involve creating business cards for the GamingEdus (people wanted to contact us to try playing later and promote our server), making clear the distinction between the Gaming Edus server and the EDGE Lab / Minecraft Club Hub server, bringing the creeper costume to future talks (it was a popular prop and PR tool) and holding another Open House in the near future.

Friday October 26, 2012 2:30 p.m.

Engaging at-risk boys through the use of video games by Jeff Pelich

Summary = This teacher uses video games regularly with his intermediate behaviour students. He shared several games that his students use, let volunteers play them, and showed how he connects the games to curriculum expectations, especially related to writing. Opportunities were also given for participants to brainstorm other ways these games could be used in the classroom.

3 Key Points

·         Many of the games Jeff uses are iPad games that they play as a group (he has 4 iPads & uses the SMART Board); he says it lessens their anxiety when the player has a supportive audience there to watch and help, and playing together works on the social skills many of his boys lack

· is his website where you can find a list of all the games he uses / has used (like Plants vs Zombies, Fishing, Wipeout, Gehsundteit, Scribblenauts, etc.)

·         Playing games teaches the kids patience and engages them much more than other means (e.g. he used the game Mechanarium as a novel study)

So What? Now What? = I was a bit put-off at first by the presenter’s philosophy (“I’m not a gamer”) but agreed with many of his other points (e.g. edu-games aren’t as good as “real” games). Once I got home, I immediately downloaded Gesundheit (but was sad to learn that Mechanarium is only for iPad2 and newer). My son loves it.

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