Monday, February 25, 2008

Another look into the 'Fischbowl' of 21st Century Learning

Fishbowl blogging and video conferencing

Once again this past week I had the privilege of being invited into the classroom of Anne Smith at Arapahoe High School . Along with Anne's colleague, Karl Fisch and other external/international guests Will Richardson, Stephanie Sandifer and Kristen Hokanson, we blogged about the Dan Pink, A Whole new mind, chapter on Meaning. My earlier post in January, "The world is a fishbowl....come on in", gives more details about the process involved in this technique of inner and outer circle discussion and blogging combined.

As you can see by the blog post for this session on Meaning, more than 300 comments were added by the 'outer circle' of attendees.

Karl sent me a list of possible questions to use for reflection on this session. So here goes....
  • How did the live blogging work for you technically? Any issues?
No issues except the practice of refreshing the screen each time to see the new comments was a little cumbersome, however it did not really hamper the actual task of reading, listening and commenting.
  • If you tuned in to the MeBeam broadcast, how did that work for you technically? Any issues? If you decided not to tune in to MeBeam, was there a particular reason?
MeBeam worked well...but not as well as the last session. A couple of times I was bumped off, also it tended to lose the audio connection many times, but when it came through again it seems I had not lost any of the talking.
  • How did this work for you in terms of being able to live blog remotely? Did you feel like you could follow/contribute to the conversation? If you tuned in to the MeBeam broadcast, do you think that helped your participation or was it more of a distraction?
I think the setup was very good for live blogging but I wonder if a better system where the comments do not have to be refreshed would enhance the experience even more. on the other hand I think what we did was removed enough from 'chatting' that it gave us all time to think of genuine comments and react to other comments and the inner circle without the pressure of being in a real-time chat environment. the MeBeam broadcast enhanced the overall experience, despite the technical glitches.
  • Do you have any suggestions – technically, structurally, or pedagogically – that you'd like to pass along?
A larger window into your classroom would be good, however the audio was very clear of all speakers! Pedagogically I believe another method of 'fishbowling' is to have a rotating inner circle where there is always one chair free. How interesting if that chair was occupied by anyone online or in person. Even if for simplicity we were all put on a rota and knew when our time was coming (as opposed to the method of jumping into the spare chair when you had something to say), at least then the inner and outer circle would merge more. Just a thought.

Thanks again Karl and Anne for pushing the envelope. I look forward to reading your academic papers and reflections based on your series of live blogging sessions.

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Saturday, February 23, 2008

Social/Professional Networks: Participating and Navigating

Are you still a little unsure what this 'Ning thing' is all about? As part of the Web 2.0 video tutorials created by Vicki Davis that are available on Atomic Learning there are two that you should watch:
- #12 Participating in social networks
- #13 Navigating a social network website (this uses EdubloggerWorld as an example)

Also, are you ready to join more networks? Here are some you may be interested in:
- Classroom 2.0
- The Global Cooling Collective
- Edubloggerwold
- Coming of Age
- Digital Citizenship
- Stop Cyberbullying
- Voices of the World
- Teacher Librarian Network
- The Global Education Collaborative

Or, if you don't find anything that fits your needs, start your own Ning!

At Qatar Academy we started a Ning recently and we now have nearly 100 members from the school and extended community. We discussed whether we should close it just to our community but the feeling was it would create more interest if it was open and other educators came in to interact with us. So, we have a handful of interested international participants who are willing to learn with us. Some of them are already fully involved in the Web 2.0 world, some are islands withing their own school and have joined our Ning in order to have somewhere to go.

I invite readers of this blog to have a look at the power of the Ning through the E-Learning 4 Life example at Qatar Academy. Come on in if you want!

Visit E-Learning For Life

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Saturday, February 16, 2008

How to start shifting your teachers: A successful model

When our teacher development and networking Ning, E-Learning for Life, reached 81 members in 2 days, when teachers are commenting and posting and sharing online and when at the end of 2 days of hard work and challenging sessions there is still a buzz of excitement in the air....I think we must have done something right. So, in my usual approach, I wish to share this experience with readers as maybe this is a successful model that you can adopt for your school in the future.

To start with I am sharing this amazing comment from a participant:

Ana - classroom teacher (when asked what she was going to do to take the first step into 21st century teaching):
"I am going to make better use of my information searching and storing system by using Delicious as my 'filing cabinet and more'... I have placed many photos on Flickr and invited my friends and family to view... I have started my Wiki page and am using it to set up a webquest on The Five Senses for the grade 2s. I am going to seek support from Mike in order to set up a blogging page for the students in my class...I've customized my iGoogle page to include all the relevant links. I've shared all that I've learned with my husband and daughters and whoever else cared to listen... and, most importantly - I've taken the plunge! I have moved from being an expert 'lurker' to...posting, and, that's big for me. Thanks for kicking me from inaction into ACTION!"

Also, this podcast of some teacher reactions during the sessions: (thanks to Ana, Sandy, Sean and Mike)

Our Ning is now filling up with comments, blog posts, new groups, new forum topics, multimedia and resources. Teachers are now aware of the possibilities and the early adopters, such as Ana, are out there doing it already.

So what did we do? How can you emulate this?

ONE - Grab an Opportunity!
Two student-free days have been on the calendar all year. Originally the administration planned for PYP training and workshops but the IBO, at 3 weeks notice, could not provide any trainers to come to Qatar so....... we were asked for ideas for substitutes. There is nothing worse in a school than being told the PD days are now private planning time....yes we all need time to do our own work however special calendared days should be planned! Thanks to our Head of IT in the Primary, Mike Boulanger, for acting quickly and recommending we use the 2 days for e-Learning PD! Thanks to Google Talk (chatting through GMail) and to Kim Cofino for being online just as we were discussing who we could bring in. Thanks to our administrators in the primary school, Sandy and Kirsten, for supporting a shift in focus for the PD days. Within one week we had approval for Kim to come, Kim had approval from her school, we had drafted a program (in Google Docs, shared between Kim and us) and were feeling excited about what was going to happen.

TWO - Plan for inclusion
We discussed the need to include large information sessions as well as workshop ideas during the two days. Teachers need to time to have personal contact and to feel that their questions are being answered. Our final schedule and full information about the 2-days of PD is on the PD Wiki.
Here is a brief summary:
For 2 days we followed this model for plenary and breakout sessions. Essentially Kim gave 2 main presentations and then each group of teachers rotated through breakout sessions with IT leaders so that they saw them twice over the 2 days.
  • Plenary sessions:
  • Breakout sessions: About 80 participants were split into 4 groups and we rotated them through 4 different breakout sessions, each 45 minutes long. It was grueling but worked!
    • Kim - Planned to go over global collaborative projects and embedding 21st century literacy, but was very flexible with what each teacher-group wanted. In some instances the sessions became question and answer with a focus on how to use the tools.
    • Mike - Focus on delicious and wikispaces
    • Julie - Focus on PLN's, Twitter, Ning and starting an RSS reader using iGoogle
    • Team planning - time to debrief and plan as a year-level group
  • Closing session for Day 1: 'The 21st Century School: Making the Shift Happen' This was an opportunity for Qatar Academy to learn from Kim and what was being developed at her school, International School Bangkok. She shared best practice and ideals and showed that change was possible given support from school administrators and willingness from teachers. This session also included a panel of QA leaders who each spoke about the direction the academy is taking and how it aligns with our curriculum objectives and how teachers are encouraged to move their professional practice into 21st century modes. It was also an opportunity for frank discussion about where QA is now and where it wants to go in the next 5 years.
  • Closing session for Day 2: A simple, whole group wrap up with everyone having an opportunity to speak out about learning experiences and to ask final questions.
THREE - Allow time for Discussion and Sharing
Instigating change in a school is scary for everyone. It was obvious from the first plenary session that many teachers were afraid and uncomfortable with this thing called a 'change in mindset'. It is so important to allow time for discussion and for sharing experiences. Over the 2 days the discussions centered around the main points raised in the presentations and workshops, but at times they did not. There were times when people wanted to talk about other worries, related to the theme. This need can be accommodated through careful planning and facilitation of sessions. However there is a fine line between sharing a concern and upsetting a session through negativity. We (Kim and organizers) navigated through some interesting attitudes and discussions, but I see this as all part of the growth a school must go through.

FOUR - Plan to Support Teachers after the PD
After it is all over and everyone goes to their much deserved what? How do we continue to foster growth and change? What happens at the start of next week when the grind of everyday teaching comes back in real terms?
At Qatar Academy this is what we are going to do. (Note however that this new setup in its entirety does not take affect until the next academic year).
  • Provide leadership for 21st century learning using information and communication tools
    • Time allocation and administrative level for a whole school leadership position has been acknowledged as required and supported
    • Time and status has been acknowledged for Primary School leadership
  • Provide technology integration support
    • There will be 3 Technology Integration Facilitators next year working mainly in the Primary School, but with some overlap into the senior area. Two of these 3 are in place now but continue this year as computer lab. teachers with set class rotations. Next year this will change as all facilitators will have flexible schedules and be able to work in the classroom as needed to support curriculum objectives and the teacher
  • Provide resources and staffing for 21st century libraries
    • The library as the hub of learning is under discussion as the emerging role of the librarian in 21st century education is evaluated
    • How this then merges with other positions and objectives in the school and how the 'librarians' come on board with 21st century literacy to work with IT specialists is being investigated and supported
Primary School IT Team and Kim Cofino

My final comments:
  • Having someone like Kim Cofino in the school with her passion for learning and passion for sharing has been a real shot in the arm for our teaching community here at Qatar Academy. I am convinced this is an important model that can be emulated elsewhere. There are 'experts' in many schools who, and I will be blunt about this, for less cost than a professional consultant (however, don't get me wrong here!), can come and be a new face in the crowd for your teachers, be a new voice that encourages and inspires, rather then the 'old' and often 'tired' voices of teachers already in the school.
  • I am pleasantly delighted at the enthusiasm of the teachers and hope we can sustain this into next year when our plans start to kick in for more support in the classroom
  • I am seriously thinking about how this approach to making shift happen can be a marketable commodity that other schools can take advantage of. I welcome you (reader of this blog) to add your ideas. How can schools tap into this working model? What would you consider doing differently? What have you already done to move teachers along the path?
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Thursday, February 14, 2008

Shift is Happening in Qatar

Kim and teachers at morning break

Quite an amazing transformation is happening at Qatar Academy. It started before today, and is already visible but today has been another catalyst for further and more rapid shift.

Kim Cofino, IT staff and the Primary school teachers at our school spent the day exploring new concepts, ideas, concerns, strategies, tools for 21st century literacy and new modes of learning. We Twittered, we Ninged, we talked, we openly discussed at a professional level what it means to be teaching and learning in a time where there is so much change in the world. Many expressed fear and they have a right to be scared. We are all scared of what is around the corner, but it is a corner we have to go around.

Here are some comments, also found on our staff E-learning 4 Life Ning, based on today's experiences -

"My immediate response to this morning's wonderful opening presentation by Kim is two fold. My first thought is on a personal note as a parent. We struggle, as does each generation with a social shift, what is acceptable to us is challenged by our kids, my fear is that because we weren't necessarily prepared for this new social network our kids are "coping" and fielding so many social dimensions, we as parents have to get on board and learn how to scaffold a child's learning to use the tools to be an effective communicator. I cringe everyday when i see my daughters social networkind dialogue, I use expression such as "unacceptable to me", But can she use the tools to make an effective presentation for English class - yes - she can, can she use the compute to graph a math project - yes, will she be able to be a decent human being and socialise in the context I am used to - my friends tell me yes!
My second thought - professionally - I love all this - please help me - I need time, I need the tools - I need the support to help me overcome the frustrations that technology throws at us."

Sandy: (Head of Primary)
"I agree that support is needed and I believe that QA is going to work towards making sure that support is there for all."

"I agree totally with Vivien and felt a little guilty as a parent earlier when I realize that computer time is so important for our children, but how to allow them to use time on the computer effectively and supporting them with this. Time is always as issue for us all as parents and professionals....."

"I was bowled over by it all. I felt it was a bit of a wake up call really.
My reactions to the presentation - it was an eye-opener! I kind of felt like when I jumped off the bridge this summer. A mixture of excitement filled with the fear of the unknown. The initial free-fall was painful and I went in blindly (my eyes shut briefly) Once I felt my weight catching on to the rope it was wonderful! I think it'll be like with most things in life .... it'll take practice and patience. Happy ning-ing and blogging everybody!"

"I am so inspired and in awe of Kim's presentations! Thank you. The two videos that Kim showed us really started conversations!! There were many reactions to this changing world. Good and bad! Fear! Insecurity! Excitement! Anticipation! Uncertainty! As I look at my 3 year old trying to get onto my computer and my 5 year old picking up my digital camera and happily clicking away within seconds of my arrival home, I realize that this is their world! I am excited for them (with a fear factor, of course). Educating them with critical thinking skills will help alleviate some of my fears and hopefully prepare them for this dynamic world. As an educator, I am looking forward to facilitating learning while choosing the best 'tool for the job.' As Jody will take practice and patience...and...enthusiasm! I am happy to help :)"

Kirsten: (Deputy Head, Primary)
"Wow, I am so thrilled to see such excitement in the school. I think we will talk about these two days for many weeks to come. I know I learnt heaps. Thanks Kim and thanks to everyone."

"The concept of a personal learning network resonates with me. When I was living in Botswana, teaching at a small school on the edge of the Kalahari, but studying online, I was able to communicate with educators all over the world - people that I could never have hoped to meet in the normal course of events, let alone engage in discussion. I found that extremely exciting, and liberating, and it turned my professional life around. However, my learning network was handed to me on a plate - fellow students, lecturers, and people whose research I was reading. Now I look forward to developing a network of educators from whom I can learn and with whom I can share - an exciting prospect."

Thanks also to Vivian for blogging about the Spike Milligan poem On the Ning Nang Nong'!

It's nearly midnight....we have had more conversations over dinner at the old souk in a Moroccan restaurant sitting outside in beautiful weather while watching the lights of the 'curly mosque' Islamic center. A great day! And more to come tomorrow!

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Monday, February 11, 2008

Introducing Kim Cofino to Qatar Academy

Teachers in the Primary School at Qatar Academy are in for an exciting two days this week when Kim Cofino comes to Qatar, by invitation as a consultant, to run sessions and workshops in 21st century literacy, global projects and Web 2.0 tools.

I am thrilled that Kim is able to come over for our PD days as I have not met her face-to-face yet but have admired her work and online involvement from afar for a while now. In fact, thinking today, I cannot quite remember when I got to be aware of Kim, and then got to know here as a valuable and supportive online colleague. I think it may have started about 12 months ago when Chris Craft and others started a collaborative blog called NextGen Teachers. Kim was/is one of the contributors along with myself, Tom Barrett, Justin Medved, Clay Burrell, Aaron Smith, Doug Belshaw and others. Since then we both had classes in the 'Life Round Here project, once again a Chris Craft initiated project. Also, Kim was an enthusiastic participant leading her class as sounding boards in both the Horizon Project 2007 and the Flat Classroom Project 2007. But this is only scratching the surface of what Kim does. She is passionate, global, committed to student-centered learning and, in her own words, 'A 21st century learner and teacher'.

I love reading Kim's blog and enjoy the depth of discussion and erudite manner in which she shares her thoughts on education and her practice as 21st Century Literacy Specialist at the International School of Bangkok.
Some recent favourite posts from Kim include -
Making Connections: Social Networking in the Elementary Classroom
and Social Learning: Learning to Share, Sharing to Learn, where she comments on the importance of networking and social learning and the interesting opportunities she is having being able to share ideas and skills with people all over the world. In this post she says:
"These are the kinds of experiences I want to ensure that my students have. I want them to experience the fun and excitement and empowerment of learning and mastering a skill. I want them to feel like they are connected to learners just like them, and that their network can grow and change as their needs shift. I want to bring this kind of connected learning to each and every classroom so that all students can enjoy learning the way I do. This is what makes my job so fun and interesting - isn’t that what we want our schools to be?"

Today I managed a short conversation via Skype with Kim (Qatar to Thailand) with the aim of grabbing a short audio file to put on our E-Learning For Life Ning and on the professional development wiki introducing Kim to the school.
Here is our conversation:

So, in 2 days time Kim arrives and we start our whirlwind schedule. This is going to be such a great week. Already we have had more teachers joining the Ning, I have sent out messages asking for people to blog the sessions and we have a positive vibe throughout the school. We are even working through some minor technical issues, such as the undersea cable being fixed so our Internet is back to normal speed again...just for Kim!

Watch this space for further updates as over 100 teachers immerse themselves in 21st century literacy ideals and learn more about connected learning this week in Qatar!

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Saturday, February 09, 2008

Call for entries: SIGTel Online Learning Award 2008

The 2008 SIGTel Online Learning Award Competition is calling for entries

Do you know of an INNOVATIVE educator who is ADVANCING online learning?

ISTE's Telelearning Special Interest Group (SIGtel) Online Learning Award
(OLA) competition recognizes creative teachers for their pioneering use of
online networks to provide innovative learning opportunities for
school-age students K–16.

  • Entries should describe innovative telecomputing learning activities completed between February 2007 and June 2008
  • Educators worldwide are eligible
  • Deadline to submit is March 31, 2008
  • Award winners announced in April 2008
  • Projects showcased at the National Educational Computing Conference (NECC) in San Antonio, Texas June 2008

More information, including a link to the entry form, can be found on the SIGTel Online Learning Award page.

View past recipients of the award.

2007 Winners:

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Friday, February 08, 2008

Horizon Project 2008: We have started, come and join us!

Find more photos like this on Horizon Project 2008

Our first information session for the Horizon Project was held in Elluminate 2 days ago. A keen group of international educators came in to discuss how we can make this a fantastic project for everyone. Thanks to the record function in Elluminate you can watch and listen to the recording of the meet-up almost as if you were there.
Thanks to
Alan Levine from the New Media Consortium for being with us and talking about the development and aims of the Horizon Report. The press release for the Horizon Report 2008 release gives full details. Also, there are many opportunities for educators to engage with the process Horizon Report via the NMC.

From the press release webpage-
"According to EDUCAUSE President Diana Oblinger, “The Horizon Report helps all of us put emerging technologies in perspective—what might be useful, what might be further in the future—and links it to learning. The examples illustrate that all this is very real. The report also raises important issues about the implications of technology—and perhaps some of our assumptions about learning.”"

and -
"In defining the six selected areas for 2008—grassroots video, collaboration webs, mobile broadband, data mashups, collective intelligence, and social operating systems—the project draws on an ongoing discussion among knowledgeable individuals in business, industry, and education, as well as published resources, current research and practice, and the expertise of the NMC and ELI communities. The Horizon Project’s Advisory Board probes current trends and challenges in higher education, explores possible topics for the report, and ultimately selects the technologies to be profiled."

Vicki Davis and I were honored to be on the Advisory Board and to contribute ideas and practices for the secondary school level of education.

I was most interested also to hear Alan Levine speak about the plans for a more international Horizon Report, one that is not so US-centric. I also encourage you to read Alan's blog following the release of the Horizon Report as it has links to a video of the release and audio files introducing the 6 emerging trends. It looks like they had a lot of fun using Second Life to present the material!

Download the 2008 Horizon Report

So, what can you do to be involved in the Horizon Project 2008?
There are many ways that educators can be involved with this project - See the Horizon Project 2007 wiki for last years project details.
  • As a participating classroom - we are looking for international classrooms
  • As a peer review classroom
  • As an advisor/expert for one of the emerging trends
  • As a judge for the multimedia artifacts
  • As a researcher
Please contact us with your ideas for participation. There will also be a classroom/teacher application form available next week for those who want to bring their students in as participants. This is going to be an exciting event in education internationally!

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Thursday, February 07, 2008

What a way to turn the day around

Today was not so good until it got better.

Technical problems plagued my morning. Wikispaces working in one computer lab but not in another. Issues with not having enough IT Support personnel to deal with the many problems in all classrooms. Trying to move to a 21st century learning environment on a shoestring budget for support but rolling in money for hardware! It just doesn't make a lot of sense right now.

However, today got better quickly this afternoon when my Grade 10 Flat Classroom Project 2007 class presented me with this magnificent cake during our last class for the semester. I was was enormous and on top was a picture of the students with my 'screen image' right in the middle! Surrounded by real, large red roses and lashings of cream, with layers of chocolate cake, icing and cream on one side and vanilla on the other.

On top the words say "Thanks for the experience Mrs Lindsay"

Along with the cake came an enormous card with student sentiments such as " may have thought we were hard to control but really we were just excited!"

Flat Classroom Project 2007 Cake

Some Grade 10 Flat Classroom Project students

Eating Flat Classroom Cake

What a way to turn the day around! Thank you Grade 10! You are the best!

Next week I swap to another Grade 10 class with whom I will be doing the Horizon Project 2008. Why not come and join our Ning and also be part of our first information session in Elluminate today (Wednesday February 6, 8pm GMT) for the Horizon Project 2008?

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Sunday, February 03, 2008

Horizon Project 2008: Find out more this week

Vicki Davis and I are planning another Horizon Project. This one, Horizon Project 2008, will be based on the newly released Horizon Report (by Educause and the New Media Consortium) that identified 6 emerging technologies over the next 5 years. We are very excited to be reading this and looking at how it will inspire great projects from our students.

We wish to invite interested people to a preliminary information sharing and discussion meeting on Wednesday this week (February 6) at 8pm GMT in Elluminate (link to be announced on wiki). We understand that one meeting in one time zone will not be enough however we will make a start with this and work out other meetings, or communications as needed. The meeting will be recorded and posted online.

Please note our new Horizon Project 2008 Ning and we invite you to join this to keep in touch with further announcements.

Also note our new wiki information session page. The Elluminate link for the meeting will be put on this page on Wednesday.

So, come and join us for some discussion and find out more! There are many different levels and areas where you and your class can become involved in the project.

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