Monday, October 28, 2013

#ECOO13 Conference Reflections

I've been blogging about ECOO here since 2010 (even though I didn't attend it that year). The Education Computing Organization of Ontario annual conference often inspires multiple posts, and this year will be no different. Here are my learning reflections from this year's event.

Educational Computing Organization of Ontario

2013 Conference - Bring IT Together

Thursday, October 24, 2013 8:00 p.m.
BIT Minecraft LAN Party

Summary: The members of the Gaming Edus hosted a "play and learn" session for educators to come try out Minecraft and ask questions in a relaxed, social atmosphere.

So what? Now what? = Denise Colby and I drove from Toronto to Niagara Falls (the site of this year's conference) in time to help set up. The original event was scheduled to last from 8:00 - 9:00 p.m. but it actually went way past midnight! Considering that there were two other major social events occurring simultaneously (the Night Lights Photo Walk and BIT Jam Session), we had a decent amount of people attend. The networking and conversations were just as enriching as the questions and answers. We didn't leave until after midnight, and the final attendees left at 1:00 a.m.!

Friday, October 25, 2013 8:15 a.m.
Opening Keynote by Jaime Casap

Summary: (taken from Lanyrd site) Jaime Casap is the Global Education Evangelist at Google, Inc. Jaime evangelizes the power and potential of the web, technology, and Google tools in education. He helps educational organizations across the world find ways to utilize these tools in support of new learning models.

So what? Now what? = Confession - Denise and I skipped this session so we could eat. We drove almost immediately after school (5:00-7:00 p.m.) and our plans for a late dinner were shelved when the Minecraft LAN party continued longer than anticipated. We knew we had to take care of our basic needs if we intended on lasting the entire day without collapsing, so we had a delightful breakfast buffet in the Marriott with a fantastic dining view of the Falls. My realization was that learning can't occur unless we take care of ourselves. This time was "prepare to learn".

Friday, October 25, 2013 10:00 a.m.
Forget Sony, Disney & WB: You can have a film making studio by Oren Grebler

Summary: (taken from Lanyrd) One computer? No Problem! One Camera? No Big Deal! No Money? Easily solvable! Creating a “Movie Studio” environment is fun way to engage your students in demonstrating their learning in a dynamic and creative way. This session will explore ways that you can turn your classroom into a film studio that is capable be of producing Short Films, Documentaries, Zombie Movies, Cartoons, Stop Motion Animation, Shadow Puppetry, and so much more. Let’s turn our students into the next great filmmakers!

3 Key Points

  1. A great free tool is the National Film Board's Pix Stop app; a great function is the trailer option on iMovie (because it provides the timeline, genre tropes, etc); a great paid tool is Go Animate for Schools (which costs $99 for 30-40 students).
  2. Feedback is very important to learning, so provide comments at all stages regarding all sorts of things, like suggesting different angles, recommending to reshoot scenes, honing the "ideation" stage where the vision is constructed, etc.
  3. Film making employs language, math, art, music, drama and more curriculum areas, but the important thing is to celebrate the process through things like movie festivals (in class/school/board), entering contests, participating in film festivals, and going above and beyond.
So what? Now what? = None of the methods shown and suggested were new to me (i.e. last year for dance-drama we did Shadow Puppet videos, last year for media we did  stop-motion animation, two years ago a small group set up green screen filming for a history project). I think the benefit of this session for me was to remind me to share the results in special ways (not just on YouTube). 

Friday, October 25, 2013 11:00 a.m.
Digital Selves: Navigating the Self in many places at once by Timothy King

Summary: (taken from Lanyrd) We live in a time of profound change. The very definition of who and where we are is constantly changing. Never before in history have people been as connected to so many different people and places as they are now. Trends suggest it will only intensify. Are we doomed to a half existence in many places, constantly distracted, unable to complete a thought? Or will the person on the other side of this technological adolescence be multi-dimensional in ways we can't currently imagine?

Come with me on an examination of recent history and future trends. How can we integrate or separate technology to better facilitate learning? How can we prepare students for the strange world they are about to graduate into? How can we survive and thrive in these times of profound change ourselves?
3 Key Points
  1. Schools are part of the problem (when we lock things down too much for students, when we encourage students and teachers to be helpless, when we allow their familiarity / passive, low-level use, by establishing practice barriers) but could possibly be part of the solution (by helping to establish digital mastery, offering a variety of devices, encouraging students to build your own device and not just bring your own device).
  2. Digital mastery is like learning to ride a motorcycle - give some theory, deconstruct the skill, (time spent important), provide everyone with a device that suits their needs, spend lots of time on the bike riding and falling, get pushed to the edge of your comfort zone by educators, do again until you get it, having it not work isn't a failure unless you cannot explain and understand what went wrong, learn enough yourself to self correct, etc. 
  3. Examine your origin story - how did you learn your digital kung fu? Consider the emotion and the self-direction. 
So what? Now what? = I intended to attend three sessions all scheduled at this time, (including "Ipads iLearing, iLibrary") but in the end I stayed for this entire talk. It was very philosophical and challenging - is 50% good enough if you are a mechanic? So why is it good enough if you are a student? No topic escaped his analysis and critical eye, even including conferences like ECOO, where he asked why we bring in "experts" as keynotes to promote their particular brand, especially if they are not educators. It's hard for me to pinpoint a specific next step based on this talk - I think it is to remember our role in the zone of proximal development - when a skill for a student is too hard for them to master but is possible with the guidance and encouragement of a knowledgeable person. Diversify our tools. Be wary of the "corporatization" of education. 

Friday, October 25, 2013 12:00 noon
Tinkering Teachers Tool Tale: Using iPads to Disrupt K-8 Learning by Brian Harrison, S. Louca and Andrew Bernier

Summary (from Lanyrd): McLuhan said "We shape our tools and then they shape us." This session will document and share the inquiry that Andrew, Brian & Stephen launched when they invited their teaching colleagues to substitute their binders with iPads, launching them into an exploration of the ways this tool could augment, modify and redefine their practice.

3 Key Points
  1. The role of the principal is to disrupt, not support - Brian saw teachers working very hard but the effort wasn't making an impact on student learning so he devised a way to radically disrupt evaluation practices and patterns to improve learning. The intent was not to parachute in technology or promote a particular hardware or software, but to redefine what we do in effective ways (because 20 years ago, it may have been a binder, Polaroid camera and cassette tape to document the learning, but now all of these can be done with an iPad).
  2. Providing a guiding question that teachers agree to investigate in exchange for receiving technology helps: How can we use iPads to document and share evidence of student learning and connect our assessment with our instruction?
  3. Conflict and bumps in the road are inevitable. At first, the teacher community asked "What app should I use? / When do I get training?" (admin won't dictate tool but will always provide learning support). The parent community worried about privacy and the desire to have schools like they had as children despite having a different world for their children (teachers didn't give up on their journey, just created systems to code identities so student privacy in the cloud was respected AND it was important to communicate to families that they have good intent, to take kids safely into digital spaces and guide them).
So what? Now what? I liked their end analogy with the Flintstones and the Jetsons: despite all the technology, the Jetsons still acted like the Flintstones, which makes the tech pointless. We need to change. Although my original intent was to attend a session to help our class teachers help students effectively use iPads, this helped me think about not fearing change and staff conflict (some progress happens when there's fear, as long as we can keep on tinkering and exploring options). Teachers need to articulate why and how they will use the technology and in what ways it will impact their teaching and learning. I asked about late bloomers and Brian said there are still some staff members who do not yet have iPad access because they have not yet demonstrated the pedagogical shift needed to make it worthwhile - that's wise and brave. Brian told me that dealing with conflict is like building a muscle, so my next step is to bring in some metaphorical barbels into my school. 

Friday, October 25, 2013 2:00 p.m.
Connecting the Blocks: Linking Minecraft to the Ontario Curriculum by Liam O'Donnell, Denise Colby and Diana Maliszewski

Summary: (taken from Lanyrd) You've heard about Minecraft. You've seen it in action. You even played the video game for yourself. You know it's that weird, blocky Lego-like game the kids at your school are crazy for. So, how do you connect their enthusiasm for this game with the learning in your classroom? The GamingEdus have you covered.

Liam O'Donnell, Diana Maliszewski and Denise Colby are three gamers who happen to be teachers with the TDSB. Together, they are the GamingEdus. Last year, they showed you how their students play with TNT and dodge Creepers during their weekly Minecraft after school clubs.
This year, they bring the blocks into the classroom to show teachers how they (and other educators around the world) use Minecraft to cover the curriculum, with inquiry-based activities in Language Arts, Science, Media and more.
In this lively and interactive discussion, Liam, Diana and Denise will share their successes and failures using Minecraft in classrooms with 30 plus students covering a wide range of skills and learning abilities. You will leave with game based learning lesson ideas that meet the Ontario Curriculum and a solid foundation on how to get a GBL program started at your school. You will also have a chance to play Minecraft on the GamingEdus Professional Play server, a multiplayer Minecraft world designed to let n00b teachers level-up their Minecraft skills and connect with other gaming educators from around the world.
3 Key Points:
  1. When students direct the learning, it is richer. It is the task of the skilled teacher to surface the expectations, to jump on the teachable moment to make the curriculum explicit (like Denise did when she connected why students wanted to make diamond swords with the previous science unit on rocks and minerals about durability and other mineral qualities.)
  2. It is possible to incorporate content areas (such as language, math, science, social studies) as well as learning skills (organization, perseverence, collaboration) in Minecraft. As Liam said, the learning can happen in-game and after-the-game.
  3. When students are passionate about the topic, they invest more time and effort. Denise's students planned to meet online before school to plan their Minecraft adventure, and some are choosing to write Enderman narratives. Diana's students took an entire year to make their Media Definition instructional video.
So what? Now what? = The next steps for the Gaming Edus are to a) post the ECOO presentation slides and the Agnes Macphail PS Room 114 Minecraft Media video online for others to see, b) arrange a regular time for one of us to be on the Professional Play server to help teachers new to Minecraft explore and discover, and c) continue to answer questions from inquiring educators in person and on Twitter about gamification, parent involvement, safety, and ways in to the game. 

Friday, October 25, 2013 2:00 p.m.
The Edu-Apprentice by many people

Summary (from Lanyrd): Being a 21st century educator is an increasingly difficult task. Finding a balance between technical, pedagogical and content knowledge is often a challenging and overwhelming task. This presentation seeks to show the lighter side of 21st century learning and demonstrate how any teacher can plan based on the TPACK model (technological, pedagogical, and content knowledge).

Willy Wiki, Doc. Google, Ivana Tellastory, Ed Modo, Bridget Together and Demo Moore make their return to ECOO in Donald Chump's "The Edu-Apprentice."
Come watch as two teams rush to build and deliver lessons based on a set of learning goals. Which team will be the most successful and which will be sent to the boardroom to explain where they went wrong? Mr. Chump and the audience will decide!
So what? Now what? = I only had a chance to see 5 minutes of this presentation. Jenny, a fellow educator who had just attended our session prior to this, had some more questions about helping parents with their children's Minecraft love, so we went out into the hall to talk with Denise and Liam, and we spent the rest of this hour discussing. I'm really sorry that I didn't get to see this session, as it looked hilarious (especially with people slipping into the hallway to dress in costume) and relevant, as small teams worked in PLC-like groups on what looked like a TLCP. However, I think it was valuable to answer questions immediately when asked. The Gaming Edus also went on Twitter to check the back channel, retweet, respond to comments related to the presentation, and make new connections.
Friday, October 25, 2013 3:00 p.m.
Closing Keynote by Kevin Honeycutt
Summary: Unlocking Learning with Today’s Tools
In this presentation I’ll share powerful, transformational stories of student and teacher success with technology tools, networks, apps and devices. I’ll challenge participants to re-engage as learners on behalf of their students.

3 Key Points (as taken from Twitter)
  1. Live out loud. Be storyfied. Be Googleable. (Thank you Daniel Ballantyne @ballantynedj)
  2. Teaching is non-invasive brain surgery. Do no harm. Emotion cements learning. (Thank you Lisa Noble @nobleknits2)
  3. To invent is to have an idea no one agrees with. That's where innovation comes from. Our strange kids. (Thank you Cathy Beach @beachcat11
So what? Now what? Kevin knows how to work a crowd perfectly. He had us laughing, crying, and cheering. The messages were many, short and tweetable. My reflection just on Kevin's talk will be sometime this week, based on this Tweet quote by Brian Smith @smithwithclass "Hug first. Ask questions later."

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