Todd’s Blog


A Combination of Talent – A Reflection of ECI 831
April 9, 2008, 11:32 am
Filed under: ECI 831

As I have preused the postings of digital projects and listened to the presentations of projects last night, I marvelled at the talented people in this class. There are so many good ideas being used to educate our children, and help others learn. This class has certainly benefitted the students in our classrooms. Although I know teachers in general are creative and talented people, we don’t often get a chance to ‘parade’ our work. There is so much out there, and easily accessible to me. I found myself in the staff room this morning discussing the many projects, pointing out ideas to people who I thought would be interested in similar projects. I also found myself offering to spend time with these colleagues, showing them what I have learned and what I have seen. This class, as mentioned by others last night, has molded many of us into role models, mentors, curriculum leaders. Like Cindy mentioned, the learning and connections made will not with this class. I for one am glad to have been part of it, and the network I have gained is invaluable to me. I’m glad we had the opportunity to get to know each other, learn from each other, and share with each other. These types of connections are so important in the world of education.

Thank you everyone for helping me to grow as an eduator and a learner.



Final Reflection of My Digital Project
April 9, 2008, 11:31 am
Filed under: ECI 831

My major digital project was a collaborative wiki developed as an independent unit for a Visual Arts 30 class for another teacher in my school. The collaborative part of this project was the development of the materials. Though my colleague had a few of the materials prepared in paper form, many of the resources, assignments, instructions, and evaluation rubrics were created from ideas we brainstormed together. We would talk about what she would like to see then I would create them, bring them back to her for proofing and possible revisions.

 

On the technological side, my contribution started with the development of the wiki. I started with the creation of the home page and added pages and links as the project started to take form. Some of the assignments would be needed by the students so I used my ftp account to store these files. I also created a worksheet for my colleague that required me to use Frontpage 2003 to make a single web page. One final piece to the resources was the creation of tutorials using Jing so that students could see how to add to the wiki, or use the required software which they need for the project.

 

As the wiki started to take form, I often asked my colleague to view it, getting her opinion on feel, flow, and whether her students would be able to use it independently. There were times I was not happy with the layout, and her opinion helped make the wiki navigate more smoothly. Once the unit goes into use I will act as an assistant to help students when they questions or need help. I will also be using the time to show my colleague the technological side of this project so that she will be able to modify it on her own and possibly create her own project some day.

 

Though I feel I am comfortable with computers and using software, I believe that I had a high degree of learning. The building of websites is not something I am familiar with or have done much. The learning of and use of a wiki was excellent for me. It opens the door to creating web pages and having others use and add to it without knowing html. Being able to create pages, link pages, add files, hyperlinks, images, etc was something I hadn’t done much, and it gave me some ideas that I can use with my students. Using an ftp account and creating a single web page, though creating a little more grief for me, was a good experience as it created a more comfortable feeling using them. I also learned how to use PhotoStory 3 and Windows Movie Maker more extensively. Though I had ‘played’ with them, this was my first experience really using them as a teaching tool. Along with that I learned about and used the program Jing. This was extremely important to me as I feel this is a tool I will use continually. What better way to help students learn to use the computer, software, and create things than through a step by step tutorial that they can see. Putting this project together has given me excitement to do more than I ever have before.

 

Fortunately the barriers were few and less significant in the grand scheme of things. One disadvantage to using a wiki is that it does limit what you can do, especially if you do not know html or css. It does peak my interest to learn more so that I can enhance what I am doing. Some examples of restrictions are: pictures don’t always go exactly where you want them, themes are limited (unless I want to pay for it), what can be added to the page is limited in how it is added and how it appears/acts, styles and formatting of fonts are limited. Also working with someone else has it downside. Much as two heads are better than one, being tied to someone else’s schedule can be limiting. Overall my colleague was quite cooperative. Lastly, I wish a blog could be integrated into the wiki. There is a journal writing part to the assignment and though it does have a discussion section, it isn’t exactly what I want. I thought that setting up an external blog was unnecessary so I settled. Who knows, as the assignment gets used and grows, the need for an external blog may be necessary.

 

I believe this is an excellent resource for Visual Arts and welcome any others that want to share it. My colleague is quite excited to use it, and it feels good to do something constructive for someone else to make their job a little more creative and easier.



Calming the Monster
April 6, 2008, 4:56 pm
Filed under: ECI 831

It’s a nice feeling, knowing one’s almost done. A week ago I blogged about the anxiety I felt about my major digital project. I was happy with how it was going, but it felt like I was having trouble controlling it. I had many ideas, but nothing seemed structured. Well, one week later, I feel great. The project is on the verge of being done. My collaboration with my colleague has gone well. Though there are a couple of instructional points to be added, the bulk of the unit is ready to go. It looks organized, and easy to navigate. This once reckless monster has been tamed into a friendly opportunity for students to learn. In the next couple of weeks we will be moving into the implementation stage, and getting students to use the project. My colleague is quite excited. She is happy with how the unit has turned out, and is looking forward to this new way of completing the unit with her students. I will play the role of helpdesk. Helping with issues, questions, and working along side students as they run into difficulties. Also, the two of us will see how students use the site and what ways we can imporve or change it for the better. Possibly even looking to add or remove segments.

I am feeling good about what I have done. I have learned so much. I know there is more I can do and I look forward to that opportunity as this digit unit I have created grows.

You can check it out at http://va30.wikispaces.com/. It feels good to have created something of value, and to help out a colleague in the process. If anyone has suggestions to add to or improve the unit, your suggestions are welcome.



The 3-Headed Monster – My Digital Project
March 30, 2008, 2:59 pm
Filed under: ECI 831

Well the time has come to open up my site for my major digital project. It is taking shape, but has yet to be finished. It is for this reason that I have dubbed it my 3-headed monster.

I started out with the idea that I could develop a wiki and make a unit for a colleague in her Visual Arts 30 class. Now, I’m not saying the idea wasn’t good, just that it was much more massive than I anticipated. First there was the discussions as to what would be put on the site. From the list of ideas my colleague and I came up with, we started gathering information and forming the work for the assignments. There were many things that had to be transformed from paper to digital. It was in this area that I had trouble keeping control of what could be done. There are lots of good ideas, but it had to be kept under control. Hence the monster association. I’m sure as the unit is used and ideas are tried, things can be added. For now I have finally learned that I can’t do everything and that time is not on my side.

The development of the wiki and how everything would be added came to be the next challenge. Making it look, feel, and act how I wanted to was not always easy. I was limited in my abilities (or lack of html abilities to be more accurate) to do everything I wanted. Eventually, I had to settle on the set up as I found I could fiddle myself to death! It is amazing how much time can be spent on fussing over little things.

One other obstacle that I hadn’t counted on was the difficulty of collaborating. Organzing ones own time is often a challenge. Organizing time of two busy teachers is another. Though we managed to find time, more could have been used. Throw in this Easter break, and it was tougher to keep things moving. We’ll find enough time for the home stretch, but it may require some late nights for me. For now the main foundation is laid. Now I have to get the rest of the building organized into a well-rounded project.



Parents Need to Know
March 22, 2008, 3:38 am
Filed under: ECI 831

I sat down this morning to read the Leader Post when I came across a headline that caught my eye – Parents Need to be Web-Saavy. How appropriate based on our recent discussions about cyber-stalkers and web safety.

The story talks about a 14 girl who left home with a personal she met online. The key to the article is that parent’s need to know what their children are doing online. Though the argument is made that they (parents) don’t know much about the internet, the article states that parents need to learn about it to the best of their abilities. Courses are offered or even just get their kids to teach them.

All of this reinforces my personal belief that education is the key. Ignorance is not an excuse. It is so easy to say “I don’t know how to”, but it is not acceptable. Parents need to learn as much as they can and take an active interest in what theie children are doing online. This is the best way to keep their chidlren safe. This cannot be stressed enough.



Discussion on Al
March 22, 2008, 2:00 am
Filed under: ECI 831

On Wednesday, March 19 our class had the opportunity to discuss the issue of Al Upton’s weblog being shut down by the Autralian government. WE were fortunate to have Sue Waters of Australia join us on our Ustream/Skype discussion. She has excellent posts regarding this closure and a summary of our discussion. Much of the conversation centered around the reason for the government taking action. We discussed chain of command decisions, trying to understand why the governement stepped in. Here in Saskatchewan the consensus was that issues like this would be dealt with by administration of the school or by the division office. Why elected officials have stepped in is a curious point. This issue almost seems like a political move to get policy in place in an area where there is none. If the sole purpose of this move is to bring some consistency and guidelines to the use of students and the internet then I understand the purpose of the government’s actions. If not, then it is more about fear and lack of understanding. Nothing good can come from reactions based on fear.

We also discussed at length steps Al took. Sue stressed that Al had followed all the right steps to set up his Mini-Legends project. He had parental consent and permission forms. So at the heart of the matter becomes the given reason for shutting down the site…fear of online predators. This point was also discussed throughout the discussion session. There were supporters for both sides-> (a) that the risk is not any greater than other educational field trip, and that there isn’t any data collected on the risks of online stalkers and (b) that we should be diligent about the posting of personal information…none should be posted, only using pseudonyms.

Like most issues of a personal nature, both sides have valid arguments. When it comes to the protection of our children, sometimes logic takes a back seat. Who can blame anyone about being passionate in the protection and safety of children? I also beleive we need to protect our children, but the best weapon we have is knowledge. Education of our students is crucial. Our students need to understand what they are doing on the internet, the consequences of their actions and the importance of safe surfing habits.

 Another good read on this issue is Clarence Fisher’s post on his blog.



Second Life
March 17, 2008, 7:21 pm
Filed under: ECI 831

Second Life was a new experience for me. Though I had heard of these “virtual worlds”, I have never experienced them. I must admit from the brief experience I have had, I think the learning curve might be a little high (especially for us digital immigrants). I’m sure the younger generation a lot of this environment is second nature. I found the experience a little frustrating. It was hard to move around, and I kept bumping into Alec (sorry about that!). I had a sense that our guide, Kirk, was experiencing some frustration himself. It was such a large group and things were not going smoothly. Eventually, after more than an hour of really getting nowhere, I had to leave. I never really did get the tour. I’m not blaming Kirk as I’m sure it was tough on him having so many newbies at once. I still plan on trying to experiment with the things that Second Life can offer. I like technology and enjoy learning new things offered. I just wonder if an experience like that will turn others off. We all know that when technology doesn’t work just right that it is all the excuse the dissenters need to put down technology and turn others off. Maybe the next experience will be better.



Dangerous, a Target, or Misunderstanding? Shutting Down Al.
March 17, 2008, 10:23 am
Filed under: ECI 831

What is with our society? It seems like every time something comes up that someone doesn’t understand, they go on a crusade to have it eliminated. Our recent example is the closure of Al Upton’s blog. Thanks to our classmates, we have been kept informed and up to date on this situation. Yet, here we are again, in an instance of panic and ignorance. A lack of education and understanding creates yet another barrier in learning. I understanad that there are concerns about cyberstalking and predators, but as we have discussed this may not be as prevalent a problem as is proclaimed. The need for education of those who engage in risky online behaviour is more important than the time that is being invested in shutting down educationally valuable sites such as Al’s. It seems targeting this site is targeting the wrong age group. I don’t believe these students are at risk. I’m sure Al has even gone as far as teaching them about online safety. How do we get people to understand what is really being accomplished here? I somehow believe that until we move into an age where the majority of users are digital natives, this issue will linger. Education is the key, and it is up to us as educators to spread the word so that one day we all will be digital natives.



The Importance of Support and Ability
March 7, 2008, 3:06 am
Filed under: ECI 831

As I began reading blogs tongight, one of the first one’s I read was Marlene’s, and her post of reflections from February 26 and 27. Her comment was general, but a couple of words really stuck out. It’s been a thought rolling through my head the last couple of weeks as we have listened to such remarkable people like Dean Shareski and Clarence Fisher. She talks about “teachers who get it, supportive adminstration, policies and time”. People like Darren Kuropatwa, Dean, and Clarence are obviously people that get it. But what about those who don’t? Those that don’t want to? Those that have other passions? These people tend to be dissenters. They don’t see the value of technology. They are either scared of it, too set in their ways to change, or don’t want to take the time necessary to learn. People like these can become roadblocks in our progress. Constantly questioning why we have to use the technology. How do we get through to them? Do we just go around them and try to get to the people who are willing to try?

Then what about the administrative support Marlene mentions? I’ve actually been told (a couple of years ago) that I have to watch overusing technology in my classes, that sometimes I focus too much on it. Administrators need to be willing to let teachers experiment and learn as long as the students are learning. Administrative support also not only needs to come from within a school, but on a division level as well. Someone like Dean is obviously in a position to be supportive and their division will no doubt excel in the ventures they dive into. What if that support is not there to the same extent? What if other divisions have ideas in a different direction such as less teacher support and more division mandated? What if they only seek out those that seek them? How do we educate division leaders to open up sites like YouTube? How can we use new software when the ability to install on a computer is restricted? When testing software has to go through a rigorous acceptance process?

Last but not least there is the time factor. There are those of us love technology, would love to use, but time is so precious. Darren mentioned the importance of family, the demands of the teaching profession, so many teachers being generalists, curriculum renewal. How do we find time to fit all this in and so much more? There are so many questions. I find trying to implement technology in a school can be frustrating without support. I want to do so much, but with teaching (which involves the expectation to coach) and administrative duties it is hard to fit everything in.

Now I don’t ramble on here just to complain. I just want to point out that there are many obstacles. They can be overcome, but people need to be realistic within their situations and abilities. I love technology yet I understand I will never be at the level of Clarence, Dean, Darren, Alec, and the many others I have come across in this class. I try to do the best job I can within my other responsibilities. Taking a class like this is one way I can learn and improve my use of technology. We can’t all be the best. We can strive to be the best we can be. Don’t get frustrated. Learn at your own pace. Do what you can do and do it as well as you can. Whatever your contribution, it will make a difference no matter how small. And above all, never let the dissenters win. Someday they may see the light!



A New Type Of Encounter Turns Into Collaboration
March 3, 2008, 3:14 am
Filed under: ECI 831

My wife was working on report cards on my laptop when she announced that this thing popped up and the computer was “ringing”. Because I have Skype set to sign me in automatically, I discovered that fellow classmate Dave Bircher was “calling”. Dave used to teach in my area, and I have known him for some time. Not wanting to interrupt my wife, I quickly answered Dave through the chat area and we set up a time to visit through Skype.

Later that after noon I began my first internet phone call. I must say I found it neat that I could talk to someone through the computer, just like a phone. Dave and I chatted, catching up on things then our conversation led to our current class. He had a question about configuring his blog. I logged into my blog, he into his, and presto we were working together to come up with a solution. It took no time at all, and we turned to some questions I had. Soon we came to the conclusion we weren’t going to get any reading done if we kept talking, so we said our goodbyes.

It was an interesting way to get kick-started working on a quiet, yet incredibly windy Sunday. Dave and I agreed to “chat” again. It was a small collaboration, but it was a beginning of something I’d never done before. Maybe we’ll find something else to collaborate on. Maybe we’ll just visit. Ain’t technology grand. I can’t wait to get others onto this!