Sunday, January 25, 2015

Edcamp Model Flourishing in Saskatchewan

Image Source: edcamp.wikispaces.com
Over the past few years, the Edcamp model has become a popular way for educators around the world to take control of their own professional development.

The model's vision is simple:
We are all self-directed learners, developing and sharing our expertise with the world.
Essentially, this model empowers professionals to share their expertise with each other.  Unlike structured conferences, edcamps do not have official schedules for sessions.  Participants come, free of charge, and ask questions about what they would like to learn or about problems they would like to solve.  Others offer up their expertise and share in an informal setting where dialogue and sharing creates a rich learning experience for all involved.

Image Source: @mmatp
Although this model lends itself to sharing best practice in educational technology, I find that there is more being shared then just how people are using the newest online tool, app or gadget in their classroom. Typically, even if the session starts out by sharing the best new tool that someone has discovered, the conversation quickly evolves into a discussion about best practice and how students can learn or work in a new way using the tool.  This makes me happy because one of the main messages I try to communicate is that technology is just a tool and we should be focused on the teaching, not the tool.  We wouldn't give a session on "Hey, check out this great pencil and how I use it in my classroom!" so why would we do the same with an app? The purpose behind why we are using the tool to enhance student learning should be the reason for sharing the latest tool or app, not the cool factor of the tool itself.

My first experience with the "unconference" model was when I was attending the Google Teacher Academy (GTA) in Seattle in 2011.  Even though I had spent two days of structured learning from Google and YouTube, my third day of GTA was much more informal and followed the Edcamp model of asking questions, sharing experiences and solving problems in small groups.  This experience really enriched my learning that had taken place while at GTA because I was able to reflect, question and discuss many of the ideas, concepts and tools that I had heard about during the more formal part of the experience.  I hoped to be able to see this informal learning model take place in my home province one day.

A couple of years later, I was thrilled to hear that a group of educators in Regina were organizing an Edcamp in Regina. It was called EdcampYQR.  This learning opportunity was very successful and a group of hard-working volunteers from Regina Public School have since organized a couple more.

What impresses me most about this model is that the Edcamps in Regina typically take place when teachers have other things to do. To participate, they have to give up their own Saturday morning or contracted planning time to attend.  This to me demonstrates the wonderful commitment many educators in our province have to sharing and learning from each other in order to become better at their profession.

This model has caught on in our province and now there are a number of upcoming Edcamps being organized over the coming weeks.  If you have never attended one of these learning opportunities before, I encourage you to try one out.


To date, I have heard of three upcoming Edcamps being organized in the Regina area:
I have also heard that there may be one organized in Saskatoon in April, but I haven't seen any details online to share at this time.  If the readers of this post know of others being organized, please let me know and I would be happy to add them to my list.  Thank you to everyone volunteering their time to organize these wonderful learning experiences.

I am hoping to attend all of the upcoming Edcamps in the province that I can fit into my schedule. Don't be shy, come out to share and learn with your fellow teachers. It may be the best professional development you get all year!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Why #ChefMovie is the perfect film to watch and reflect upon #DCMOOC

Source: azurecollier.com
After rain ruined what was intended to be a celebration of the end of #DCMOOC, a relaxing weekend camping expedition to Moose Mountain Provincial Park, we ventured out to see a movie we thought would be about good food and following your dreams. When we read the initial reviews of John Favereau's film "Chef", we expected to see a feel good movie that would help alleviate the disappointing letdown of not camping this weekend.  To my surprise, I ended up spending the movie reflecting on a number of items covered in #DCMOOC and being inspired to write this blog post about it so that others who have followed this massive open online course would be encouraged to see it.

If you haven't seen the trailer for Chef, you can watch it here:



In the movie, Chef Carl Casper learns about the pitfalls of social media when he unknowingly sends a public tweet to a food critic that he thought was a private message and starts a Twitter feud. After publicly loosing his cool with the critic and having the numerous spectator videos of the incident go viral, his reputation is ruined as he discovers that he can't get the video offline. Unemployable and depressed, Chef Casper ends up in Miami where he gets a food truck and travels back across the country to Los Angeles with his friend and 11 year old son, Percy.

Now why would a movie about food be relevant to digital citizenship? Well, here are a few reasons why this movie is so much more than a quirky independent film about food and really a lesson about the impact of a good digital presence, regardless of age. It is also a lesson that with a little work, you can overcome a problem with your less than perfect digital footprint.

Lesson #1:  Even young kids have smart phones, social media accounts and can teach their parents how to use them.  This can sometimes be problematic.

In the movie, Chef Carl learns about Twitter from his young son, who he discovers has been given a cell phone by his mother and has numerous social media accounts, even though he is really too young to have any of them based on his age. Carl asks his son to sign him up for Twitter and has him teach him how to tweet. What his son doesn't tell him is that his tweets are actually public and aren't really the private messages that are exchanged when sending text messages. This gets Chef Carl into trouble when he sends his first tweet and is re-tweeted numerous times.

Lesson #2: In the age of smart phones and cameras, everything we do in public can be documented and shared for everyone to see.

The problem with losing your cool in public is that there is likely someone there that is probably going to film it before they would intervene in an incident. They can then upload it and share it with the world in the hopes to either profit or gain notoriety as the person that captures the incident. When Chef Carl loses his cool with the restaurant critic, it is captured and shared online for all to see. He become famous, not for his cooking, but for telling off a famous critic. Not something that any chef would want on his permanent digital record. The worst part, he discovers, it that there is no way to have the video taken down as there are too many different copies on a variety of cell phones and it has gone viral.

Lesson #3: Even with a damaged digital reputation, you can recover and move on to have a successful life.

When Chef Carl starts selling his famous Cuban sandwiches out of his food truck, his son and patrons begin sharing his location online and the popularity of his restaurant on wheels grows. Not only does Chef Carl learn that his young son been using Facebook, Vine, Twitter and Instagram to document their road trip and publicize his food, he discovers that his son has also been quite astute at using these tools to use geotagging and video editing to promote the food truck. His online reputation is repaired and social media is now a positive in his life rather than a negative.

Lesson #4: Young people just seem to know how to use these social media tools, however they don't always know their impact on people's lives. Sometimes they discover it by accident.

Chef Carl's young son not only introduces him to Twitter and gets him signed up, but turns his food wagon into a social media success by the way he uses the online tools to promote his food.  The chef's lack of knowledge and even lack of what to ask his son about how Twitter actually worked got him into trouble. This to me demonstrates what a lot of parents are likely experiencing today. Their children can show them how to sign up and post a social media message, but they aren't knowledgeable enough to go to the next level in the conversation with their parents and the parents aren't knowledgeable enough about the tools to ask the right questions. The only thing that would have made this movie perfect, from a digital citizenship point of view, would have a been a conversation between the chef and his son about the impact of social media, the good, the bad and the ugly and what they had all learned from the experience.

So as #DCMOOC winds up, I encourage all of its participants to go to this movie and reflect on what they learned during the course. If nothing else, you will enjoy the movie and hopefully cement a little bit of what you learned over the past few weeks.




Friday, May 16, 2014

Excitement over #DCMOOC - Kicking off a Massive Open Online Course on Digital Citizenship

As part of my work on Saskatchewan's Action Plan to Address Bullying and Cyberbullying, I have been charged with leading the implementation of the recommendations related to the digital side of bullying, specifically how to ensure our students learn how to behave appropriately and responsibly online. The following slides from a recent presentation outline the sections of the action plan that pertain to this:


 


One part of this work is helping to ensure all educators in the province are supported with the professional development they need to teach digital citizenship.  As part of this plan, I have been lucky enough to work with Dr. Alec Couros and Katia Hildebrandt from the University of Regina in the development and delivery of #DCMOOC

This Massive Open Online Course on Digital Citizenship helps to ensure equal access to all educators in the province. Being limited in time and budget, delivering this professional development opportunity online allows anyone who is interested in this topic the opportunity to learn on this own time, to the degree and depth that interests them the most. Participants either have the chance to participate in a synchronous scenario by attending the sessions "live" at their scheduled time or at a time that is convenient for them through an a-synchronous version where they watch archived sessions.

To better understand what a MOOC is, watch this video by Dave Cormier: What is a MOOC?



We first shared publicly that this professional opportunity would be offered during a presentation  on April 1st. By the time DCMOOC started on May 11th, we had over 800 people registered. Here is an infographic to learn more about who has signed up so far to participate in #DCMOOC:



As we kick off the first week of #DCMOOC, I am excited to learn from the community that has gathered to discuss this important topic. Thanks to everyone who signed up and who are taking the time to contribute to the learning community. Everyone's contribution is important.